Does Public Art Have Bequest Value?

February, 2002


Many people argue that public art contains an element of "bequest value": value derived by people today from the expected enjoyment of the art by future generations. This benefit, many believe, can only be uncovered vis-à-vis non-market valuation mechanisms such as contingent valuation (CV) surveys. In this paper, I investigate the existence of this claimed benefit. I employ an intergenerational model of the benefits of willingness-to-pay and private charitable gifts to the arts, and fit it empirically using General Social Survey data. The data analysis suggests that people do take their life expectancies into account to some extent when responding to questions about WTP. Indeed, we cannot reject the hypothesis that people do not consider future generations in their current support for the arts.

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