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Cultural heritage is universal in that every culture has a heritage, but that heritage is unique to each culture or community. A building that may be slated for replacement in one region because it is mundane or out of date may be revered in another due to the cultural meaning attached to the building’s heritage. As a result, different preferences for cultural goods arise from the differences in culture. In addition, one rarely hears that we have “too much” cultural heritage; more heritage is universally desired, but protecting and creating cultural heritage is costly. Thus, there are many reasons for the study of the economics aspects of cultural heritage, including a desire to study the values that people have for cultural heritage as well as to inform the efficient management of cultural heritage assets.
The economics of cultural heritage is, like many applied economic fields, the result of the application of microeconomic and macroeconomic concepts to the study of a particular facet of our lives, cultural heritage. Cultural heritage has both tangible and intangible aspects, and thus the economics of cultural heritage invokes methodologies used to study both market and nonmarket goods and services.
This research paper begins with a definition of cultural heritage and discussion of the scope of the economics of cultural heritage and next provides an overview of the primary theoretical issues addressed by the economics of cultural heritage. The research paper then moves to discuss empirical examples and applications and policy implications. The fifth section offers emerging trends in the economics of cultural heritage and identifies gaps in the literature where opportunities for significant contributions to the economics of cultural heritage exist for twenty-first-century researchers. The final section offers a summary.
What Is the Economics of Cultural Heritage?
Cultural heritage includes stories, collections, and other artifacts that are used to define and convey the specific attributes of a culture. Thus, cultural heritage is the set of tangible and intangible assets that help to uniquely define a community or nation. Vaughan (1984) indicated that a nation’s cultural heritage included three distinct types: the artistic, the natural, and the historical. Some heritage assets are constructed; these include architecture, archaeological sites, and monuments, which are tangible assets, as well as cultural goods such as art, songs, dance, and stories that may be intangible or ephemeral. In addition, some heritage assets are natural assets such as trees imbued with cultural meaning such as the California redwoods; these assets would exist without human intervention, but the values assigned to them are humanly constructed and help to define a culture. Thus, we may think of a country’s or region’s cultural heritage as a type of capital asset that includes both natural (trees or landscapes) and built assets (monuments or archaeological sites), some of which are tangible (buildings) and some of which are intangible (customs).
A significant challenge exists for those studying the economics of cultural heritage since the definition of cultural heritage not only is broad but also likely includes distinctly subjective elements. As a result of the diversity of heritage assets and the fact that they are, by definition, uniquely defined for each region, the methodologies used to study the economics of cultural heritage are also diverse.
The Scope of the Economics of Cultural Heritage
The economics of cultural heritage is often situated as a theme in the cultural economics subdiscipline, which includes the study of cultural industries such as the art and music markets and the consumption and production of cultural goods such as film, art, music, and books. Both cultural economics and the economics of cultural heritage investigate the role of government in the provision of cultural assets, including the study of subsidy, tax, and other policies in the provision or protection of these assets. The economics of cultural heritage also has many overlaps with the environmental and natural resource economics literature due to the nature of the assets being studied (unique, place based), the methodologies used to study them (nonmarket valuation), and the shared characteristics of public goods and externalities that motivate a role for government intervention in both cases.
Outside of economics, the economics of cultural heritage has several important links to sociology and anthropology, especially the sociology of art, which studies how cultures create value. Due to the fact that many cultural heritage sites are historic in nature, the economics of cultural heritage rubs elbows with the fields of history and historic preservation, architecture, and urban planning. And because many heritage sites are tourist attractions, the economics of cultural heritage also often finds itself aligned with tourism studies.
Throsby (1997) provides an excellent overview of the core concerns in the economics of cultural heritage. At its most basic level, the first step for any study in the economics of cultural heritage is to clearly define the good that is being studied. In the case of cultural heritage, this is less straightforward than in many other applied economic fields. Once defined, the central theoretical concern in the economics of cultural heritage is clearly the question of the value of cultural heritage. Because of the public goods nature of cultural heritage assets, the role of government intervention is an important theme as well. To study these elements, researchers in the economics of cultural heritage apply several different theoretical constructs from economics.
The Nature of Cultural Heritage
Many cultural heritage assets have been identified as having the public good characteristics of nonexclusion and shared consumption. Nonexclusion implies that it is difficult if not impossible to exclude nonpayers from enjoying the benefits of the good. In the case of many monuments and buildings with architectural elements relevant to cultural heritage, it is clear that nonexclusion applies. Shared consumption means that multiple consumers can enjoy the same good simultaneously without reducing the benefit to any one individual. This, too, is relevant for some cultural heritage assets as many consumers can enjoy viewing the exterior façade of the Cathedral of Notre Dame or an archaeological site at the same time.
The economics of market failure tells us that due to the rational free-riding behavior of consumers when public goods are present, these goods will not be provided in socially optimal levels by markets. It is this market under-provision that invokes a potential role for the government provision of public goods. The appropriate role of government in the provision and protection of cultural heritage is thus a key topic for the economics of cultural heritage. Questions regarding whether the destruction of cultural heritage assets should be regulated are studied by cultural heritage economists, as is the determination of the socially optimal amount of investment in a region or nation’s cultural heritage assets. Once government has invested in cultural heritage assets as theory predicts, another question for the economics of cultural heritage is whether that investment actually provides social benefits that outweigh the costs of the protection.
Externalities are said to exist when economic actors other than those directly involved in the market transaction are affected by the production or consumption of the good. Second-hand smoke is a classic example of a negative externality since innocent bystanders are negatively affected from the actions of the smoker. When negative externalities are present, market outcomes are not efficient since the market provides more than the socially optimal amount of the good. Positive externalities also exist when bystanders receive benefits from the actions of others. When positive externalities are present, the market will provide less than the socially optimal amount of good.
There are many cases where positive externalities exist with cultural heritage assets. One example can be found in the protection of architectural elements in historic districts that lead to the increased prices of neighboring properties. Similarly, if an individual has protected an old mill or barn from destruction by maintaining the property on his or her own land, the entire community will benefit from that protection since the cultural heritage asset is being maintained as a visual reminder of the historic, symbolic, and perhaps aesthetic values of regional culture.
Many cultural heritage assets are provided by private parties, of course. Private parties regularly maintain cultural heritage sites such as cemeteries without the assistance of government intervention. And in addition to fine examples of architectural heritage that may be owned by private individuals, Native American rock drawings and burial grounds may be found on what is now private property, due to the history of land transfers. The protection of those assets may be optimal for the collective good, but private individuals will tend to under invest in their protection given the nature of externalities. As a result, the inventory of cultural heritage assets may decline over time.
Government intervention in markets where externalities are present comes in many forms. One form of government intervention is the regulation of activities that promote positive externalities or discourage negative externalities. In the instance of cultural heritage, governments regulate historic districts and prohibit the destruction, sale, or commercial use of certain kinds of cultural artifacts. However, it is difficult to regulate cultural heritage if governments are not aware of the assets, as is sometimes the case when the heritage assets are completely contained on private property.
Another form of government intervention in markets with externalities is to use fiscal policy to encourage (or discourage in the case of negative externalities) the activities. Subsidies for some historic preservation work exist in the form of government grants, and tax credits are granted for renovations and protection work in federally designated historic districts.
The Value of Cultural Heritage
By far and away the most central concern of the economics of cultural heritage has been the study of the value of cultural heritage. The treatment of value in economics has an interesting evolution, as succinctly described by Throsby (2001, pp. 20-23). A good’s market price is typically considered the most effective indicator of economic value that we can identify. The so-called paradox of value, which questions why diamonds, a nonessential luxury, are more expensive than water, a necessity, points to an important caution for relying on market prices as indicators of value. It is clear that for many goods, values other than economic value are not likely to be reflected in market prices; these include cultural values. As a result, a student of the economics of cultural heritage must recognize that market prices cannot directly measure the total value of a cultural heritage asset.
A holistic measure of the value of a cultural heritage asset would include all elements of its cultural value— that is, its historic, aesthetic, spiritual, social, symbolic, and authenticity values (Throsby, 2001) in addition to its economic value. The historic values associated with a cultural heritage asset may be readily conveyed by its mere existence, which provides a direct connection with a community or individual’s past. For example, singing songs that are traditional to one’s culture provides a tangible link to earlier members of one’s community, even though the asset itself is intangible. This connection will create historical value. Authenticity values are generated when a cultural heritage asset is a genuine artifact of the culture; the value associated with this authenticity is distinct from the other cultural values that may be associated with the asset. Communities may derive aesthetic values from a cultural heritage asset due to its beauty or design or the placement of the heritage asset in the landscape, such as the façade of a cathedral or the arrangement of boulders at Stonehenge. Some cultural heritage assets may take on symbolic or even iconic values, such as the cedar tree in Lebanon that adorns their flag. The cedar tree is not just a tree for the Lebanese but rather a cultural symbol of strength and longevity. Spiritual values may be derived from cultural heritage assets such as cathedrals and churches whose sites invoke connection to one’s spiritual identity or connectedness with other members of the same spiritual community. The aspects of culture that are defined by shared values and beliefs will generate social values for communities and provide a sense of connection with others in the community.
Other types of values may be assigned to cultural heritage assets as well. Borrowing from the literature in natural resource and environmental valuation, bequest values are those values that we hold for assets merely because we wish to be able to pass them on to our heirs. Cultural heritage assets may generate significant bequest values due to their historic, symbolic, and authenticity values.
Markets are not likely helpful in determining these cultural values for two reasons. The first reason is that many heritage assets are not exchanged in markets, and thus market prices do not exist that might serve to proxy or provide a fractional estimate of the total value of a cultural heritage asset. The second reason is that even when there is a market for cultural heritage asset (or an attribute of it), the market price will likely not reflect the cultural value assigned to that asset due to the nature of cultural heritage assets as public goods and/or those exhibiting positive externalities. As a result, nonmarket valuation techniques such as contingent valuation are frequently used in the economics of cultural heritage. Later in the research paper, we’ll see that some methods will be incapable of measuring the cultural values of heritage sites, which has implications for the empirical work in the economics of cultural heritage.
The previous discussion has implied that economic values are likely less than the total value of a cultural heritage asset that includes its cultural values. The relative weight of economic and cultural values in total value is an empirical question, although it is likely to vary by type of cultural heritage asset. It may be that for many cultural heritage assets, the economic (market) value of a particu-lar heritage asset is low, while the cultural heritage values are high. For example, an old industrial site may have great cultural value for its ability to tangibly depict the historical importance of a particular manufacturing technique or way of life, but it may have a very low property value.
One might ask whether it is appropriate to concern ourselves with the individual components of value, when the total value is what is effectively useful for the study of the economics of cultural heritage. Insofar as these values are unable to be represented in market prices, it is important to catalog them so that we can create a more holistic picture of the overarching or total value for the cultural heritage asset in question. This will be helpful for managers of heritage assets and policy makers who are determining the policies that provide support for such assets.
It may also be that by deconstructing the value of a cultural heritage asset into its composite elements and querying consumers about them, we can learn more about the importance of that asset while also learning about how and why consumers formulate preferences. The estimation of willingness to pay (WTP), discussed more thoroughly in the next section, is presumed to be a proxy for value, and it is hypothesized that the factors that influence WTP include the presence or absence of the cultural values described above. While neoclassical economics has traditionally been uninterested in the preference formation process, instead presuming that we have a well-defined set of preferences a priori, it is clear that additional knowledge about consumer preference formation will benefit the discipline as a whole. Models of consumer behavior, for example, would be enriched by including models of preference formation.
Cultural Heritage as a Capital Asset
Because cultural heritage is effectively a bundle of assets, the valuation of those assets is a core concern of the economics of cultural heritage. Learning how much citizens value historic monuments is one way of measuring the value of cultural heritage capital assets. Another is to ask how much they would be willing to pay to preserve those assets or to protect them from quality degradation. The answers to these questions are essential to understanding the amount of wealth that a nation has, how a citizen’s quality of life is affected by the presence or absence of such assets, and the role of heritage assets in economic activities. In addition, a valuation of cultural heritage assets is an essential input into policy questions regarding the level of investment and regulation of cultural heritage assets.
As previously indicated, cultural heritage assets may be tangible or intangible, built or natural, permanent or ephemeral. This cultural heritage capital is thus uniquely differentiated from the physical capital, human capital, and natural capital that are typically studied by economists. However, there are similarities with other forms of capital, especially with regards to the decisions that are made that affect their quantity and quality. In theory, cultural heritage capital will continue to accumulate over time as a culture evolves, and we can encourage the accumulation of cultural capital to accelerate this growth. If this type of policy is pursued, the aggregate value of a region’s cultural heritage assets will increase over time.
However, some forms of cultural heritage capital (monuments, architecture) must also be maintained to ensure that the asset does not deteriorate over time. Of course, it is likely that the condition of the heritage capital will determine some or all of the values that people hold for those assets, a testable hypothesis for researchers in the economics of cultural heritage. If a historic barn or church is left to disintegrate into the landscape, then eventually there may be no remnants of the site that induce cultural value. As a result, assessing the condition of heritage capital, as well as the change in that condition, is required just as it is essential to measure depreciation for other capital assets. The decisions regarding the accumulation, maintenance, and deterioration of cultural heritage capital assets are shared by individuals and government, as described in the previous section. Concerns about intergenerational equity are inherent in the management of cultural heritage assets since costs and benefits may not be evenly distributed across time or space.
Applications and Empirical Evidence
The value of cultural heritage can be estimated using several different methods. The appropriate choice of method will be determined by the type of cultural heritage asset that is to be valued such as whether it is fixed in a given geographic location, whether it draws visitors, whether it is tangible or intangible, and whether significant cultural values are believed to exist for the asset. This section will explore the diverse types of methods used to estimate the value of cultural heritage empirically and issues associated with this applied valuation work in the economics of cultural heritage.
The most frequently applied method for valuing cultural heritage has been the contingent valuation method (CVM). The CVM is a nonmarket valuation technique, a name given to the set of methodologies for valuing goods and services that are not exchanged in markets. Nonmarket valuation (NMV) techniques were developed to estimate the benefits associated with the attributes of the environment and natural resources that do not have market exchanges to determine price, such as clean air and water or recreation that is not marketed. The most common NMV technique, CVM, asks beneficiaries directly about their willingness to pay for a particular good or service. The method has been openly criticized because the method presumes a hypothetical, rather than actual, market and risks introducing biases without careful study design. The reliability of the CVM was thoroughly investigated by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) panel, which concluded with a cautious stamp of approval for the use of CVM in natural resource damage assessment (NOAA, 1993). Since then, thousands of CVM studies have been used to estimate the value of natural resource and environmental amenities, due in part to the fact that it is a flexible method that can be applied to virtually any good or service. It is for this reason that CVM has been used in the estimation of cultural heritage values. CVM has been used to estimate many cultural heritage assets, including museum sites, cathedrals, the medina in Fes (Morocco), and monasteries, among others. Because of its inherent flexibility, the CVM has also been frequently used to estimate the value of additional protection or preservation for cultural heritage assets. Navrud and Ready (2002) provide a sampling of such studies.
Another nonmarket valuation method that can be used to estimate some of the values of cultural heritage assets is the travel cost method. The travel cost method (TCM) uses recreational trip costs as a proxy for site value, and thus it is only a relevant method for those heritage sites that generate recreational visitation. Because the travel cost method presumes that nonvisitors have no value for the site, it is a less than perfect method for many heritage sites that will be valued by individuals who do not actually visit them. One of the first studies to use the travel cost method to value a cultural heritage site was Poor and Smith (2004), who estimated the value of historic St. Mary’s City of Maryland.
As in the environmental and natural resource literature, studies of the economics of cultural heritage have combined the travel cost and contingent valuation methods. The advantage of combining the two methods is that actual price information revealed in travel costs can serve to mitigate the hypothetical nature of the contingent valuation exercise. Alberini and Longo (2006) combined travel cost and contingent behavior methods to study the value of cultural heritage sites in Armenia.
Choice modeling is another nonmarket valuation method that has been used to estimate the value of cultural heritage as an element in the overall valuation of a heritage site. In a choice modeling study, respondents are asked to simultaneously value the various attributes of a good or service by selecting from various bundles of characteristics for the asset in question. For example, respondents could be asked about different scenarios for a particular heritage site that are defined by varying levels of protection for cultural sites, differing levels of monetary contribution, and varying levels of access to the heritage asset. Choice modeling has been used to investigate the value of aboriginal cultural heritage sites (Rolfe & Windle, 2003) and the heritage values associated with farmland in western North Carolina (Mathews & Bonham, 2008).
Because some cultural heritage values are likely to be embedded in property values, the hedonic price method has also been applied to uncover the value of cultural heritage. The hedonic price method examines market prices for a good such as housing as a function of its component characteristics, including both housing characteristics (number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc.) and other characteristics, including attributes such as air quality and proximity to amenities, recreation sites, or heritage assets. Rosato, Rotaris, Breil, and Zanatta (2008) use the hedonic method to explore whether housing prices in the Veneto region of Italy vary due to proximity to built heritage sites such as historical palaces, fortresses, and religious buildings; the variation in housing prices represents a value of cultural heritage.
While several methods can be used to estimate the value of cultural heritage, each of them is imperfect. The limitations of the travel cost method dictate that it will underestimate cultural values by assuming that only site visitors have value for them. The hedonic method can capture the component of cultural value that may be embedded in property values, but it is likely that many cultural values that we hold for heritage sites are accruing to individuals who do not own property proximate to them, and thus the hedonic method, too, will provide an underestimate of the total value of cultural heritage. Choice models more closely mimic market transactions than the contingent valuation method, but they are challenging to design due to their complex nature and may be confusing for respondents to complete. The contingent valuation method is the only method that is likely to be able to capture the full value that we have for cultural heritage assets (economic + cultural values), which is likely why we have seen relatively more CVM conducted than any other method. Additional methodological advances in the valuation of cultural heritage, perhaps by strengthening the field’s connection with environmental and natural resource economics, would help resolve some of the issues noted here.
The Economic Impact of Cultural Heritage
Most studies estimating the value of cultural heritage have investigated built sites such as monuments and historic buildings. Because these historic sites can attract visitors, and because those visitors expend scarce dollars to experience the heritage assets at the site that benefit communities in the form of sales and tax revenue, there have been many studies estimating their economic impact. The economic impact studies provide what might be considered a lower bound value for the sites since they cannot provide an accounting of the cultural values ascribed to the sites. However, it is likely that the cultural values that consumers hold for these sites are a factor in the demand for visits and thus an important underlying preference.
Until recently, most studies of the economics of cultural heritage were studies estimating the economic impact of tangible or built heritage assets such as monuments and architecture. A vast majority of these studies have been done outside the United States, in both Europe and developing countries. This may be because the portfolio of cultural heritage assets is richer for countries with longer histories than the United States or because the widespread public interest in those heritage assets provides a rationale for their study.
The role that cultural heritage plays in attracting tourists has led to several tourism studies of cultural heritage sites. These studies have implications for both their economic impact and the management of the sites themselves. Cuccia and Cellini (2007) examined the preferences of tourists visiting Scicli, a Sicilian town known for its baroque heritage, and found that cultural heritage was not among the most important reasons for visitors making their trip. Other studies have examined the behaviors of tourists at cultural heritage sites with the aim of providing recommendations for tourism management (de Menezes, Moniz, & Vieira, 2008; Kolar & Zabkar, 2007) and whether or not World Heritage Site listing increases tourism (Tisdell & Wilson, 2002).
In addition to studies estimating the economic impact of visitation to heritage sites, the economic impact of construction and maintenance expenditures for cultural heritage assets has been investigated. In the European Union, for example, it has been estimated that 50% of all construction activity is related to building restoration work (Cassar, 2000). Thus, the protection of cultural heritage assets can provide a significant contribution to a region’s economy.
Cultural Heritage and Economic Development
The more general question of the relationship between cultural heritage and economic development is, as one might expect, also a concern for the economics of cultural heritage. For example, Murillo Viu, Romani Fernandez, and Surinach Caralt (2008) investigated the impact of the Alhambra on the economy of Grenada, Spain. Additional studies of heritage sites’ role in economic development have been predominantly focused on developing countries, due in part to the role that institutions such as the World Bank have had in developing place-based economic development strategies that include protection of cultural heritage sites.
Government Provision of Cultural Heritage
Because the public goods nature of cultural heritage will lead to the underprovision of heritage by markets, there is a motivation for the government provision of cultural heritage. Several studies have examined whether public support exists for additional government activities to protect cultural heritage. The outright, direct provision of cultural heritage is frequently pursued by governments as evidenced by the Smithsonian Institution in the United States and in national parks, monuments, and historic sites across the globe. An infrequently pursued but perfectly applicable empirical investigation for the economics of cultural heritage is cost-effectiveness analysis of these government investments in cultural heritage.
Government intervention is also prescribed if the provision of cultural heritage assets has spillover benefits (positive externalities) since the market will also tend to provide fewer heritage assets than would be optimal for society in this case. Governments frequently use subsidies and tax policy to promote private provision and/or preservation of heritage assets. In addition, regulation is frequently used by governments, despite the fact that it is often the economist’s least favorite tool. Historic districts that restrict design and construction and even color of homes are commonly used to promote or ensure the provision of cultural heritage by private individuals.
Another interesting question that has been identified for the economics of cultural heritage is the question of who benefits from government investment in cultural heritage and who pays (Throsby, 1997). Social benefit-cost analyses of cultural heritage projects have not been widespread, although it is hypothesized that the benefits are not as well distributed as costs. While we might expect that everyone benefits equally from the existence of cultural heritage, since individuals with higher education and income levels are more likely to visit or otherwise consume certain types of cultural heritage, it is not clear that the distribution of costs and benefits is coincident. Additional studies on the distribution of the costs and benefits of providing cultural heritage will greatly enrich the field.
Emerging Opportunities in the Economics of Cultural Heritage
The economics of cultural heritage has up to now positioned itself as many other applied fields in economics, where conventional methodologies (economic impact analysis, nonmarket valuation techniques, welfare analysis) are applied to new settings. While the value of cultural heritage will likely continue to reign as the primary investigative theme for some time to come, several emerging opportunities indicate the field may be approaching an adolescence of sorts. If these opportunities are pursued, the economics of cultural heritage may very well push the boundaries of economics into exciting new territory in the twenty-first century.
One opportunity for researchers that has yet to be realized is to study in depth the nature of cultural heritage as cultural capital. In particular, one interesting question would be to investigate the change in the value of heritage assets over time. In theory, if we construe cultural heritage as another form of capital asset, then the value of these assets, if maintained, should rise over time. Exploring the rate of appreciation of these assets, especially with the aim of making comparisons with other assets in which the government may invest, is a fruitful direction for future research that could yield significant implications for government policy. This line of inquiry requires both a benchmark valuation for cultural heritage capital and a commitment to regular investigation of a specific asset, and thus it will be more likely that we would see this type of research conducted with tangible heritage assets that are easier to define and monitor than intangible heritage assets.
Another opportunity for the economics of cultural heritage is to strengthen its link with natural resource and environmental economics by increasing the recognition and importance of natural assets in defining cultural heritage. To date, very few economic studies have been conducted that define cultural heritage via a region’s natural assets. One such study investigated the value of Armenia’s Lake Sevan as a unique symbol of Armenian cultural heritage (Laplante, Meisner, & Wang, 2005). However, there are many cases around the globe where natural assets are important components of a region’s cultural heritage that would provide interesting and significant case studies for the economics of cultural heritage. One example exists in Lebanon, where the cedar tree, which adorns the Lebanese flag, is an important part of Lebanese cultural heritage. These trees, some as much as 3,000 years old, have been nominated as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and are currently under threat due to global climate change. Investigating the value of protecting these cultural heritage assets, as well as other forms of heritage that exist in natural resources, would both advance the work of the economics of cultural heritage and environmental valuation methodologies.
Along these lines, it would be interesting to know how the global citizenry values iconic cultural heritage assets such as UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sites. To date, most studies have focused on estimating the values that regional citizens or visitors hold for their proximate cultural heritage assets. Learning the values held by the global population could assist in designing effective policies for their long-term survival.
A related opportunity is to more intentionally situate the study of the economics of cultural heritage in a given geographic space. Although much of our heritage is specifically embedded in a particular geographic location or place, very few studies have intentionally incorporated the use of geographic information systems and other spatial methods to better understand the value of cultural heritage assets. One example is the interdisciplinary Farmland Values Project that investigates the values that four communities in western North Carolina have for farmland. One of the methodologies used in the study had participants describe the places that were culturally important to them using a widely and freely available mapping software, Google Earth, and rate places they had located on the map for their heritage and other attributes. The exercise yielded a community-defined map of culturally important places that is intentionally embedded in place. Additional work in the economics of cultural heritage could serve to strengthen the methodologies for both collecting and spatially organizing cultural heritage valuation data and work toward building a bridge between economics, geography, and other fields such as ethnobotany and cultural anthropology that have more intentionally place-based modes of inquiry.
At the outset of the research paper, the definition of cultural heritage included intangible elements such as customs, yet no studies have investigated the value of cultural customs, ways of life, or other intangible aspects of cultural heritage. Investigations in this area would be an excellent bridge between the traditionally quantitative methods of economics and the more qualitative methods of anthropology and sociology. Thus, in addition to broadening the repertoire of the economics of cultural heritage, research in this area could help to push the boundaries of the economic discipline by gathering information on how and why consumers formulate preferences for intangible goods and services.
The economics of cultural heritage is an emerging subfield in economics that has the ability to both serve academic audiences outside of economics (sociology, anthropology, history, political science) and push the boundaries of the economics discipline as a whole. The development of the field has been closely linked with cultural economics and shares with it the importance of incorporating knowledge from disciplines that traditionally have not been rigorously studied by economists, including history, architecture, and the arts. The future of the economics of cultural heritage looks bright as there are numerous opportunities for the field to make significant advances in the valuation of cultural heritage and for pushing the boundaries of economics. Some of these include a more intentional incorporation of interdisciplinary methods and more complex studies to evaluate the full set of values that we hold for our cultural heritage, including the truly intangible elements.
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