Title page for ETD etd-09072001-101445

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author White, Christine Gifford
Author's Email Address christine_white@hotmail.com
URN etd-09072001-101445
Title The Effects of Class, Age, Gender and Race on Musical Preferences: An Examination of the Omnivore/Univore Framework
Degree Master of Science
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Hughes, Michael D. Committee Chair
de Wolf, Peggy L. Committee Member
Fuhrman, Ellsworth R. Committee Member
  • music preferences
  • alienation
  • omnivorousness
  • cultural capital
  • highbrow/lowbrow
Date of Defense 2001-09-05
Availability unrestricted

Using data from the 1982, 1985, 1992, and 1997 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), this thesis tests the effects of class, age, gender and race on the breadth of musical preferences that respondents report to liking. Specifically, the omnivore/univore framework developed by Peterson (1992) is examined.

It is hypothesized that age and social class are positively related to musical omnivorousness (liking a wide variety of music). That is, older people and people higher in social economic standing will be more omnivorousness in musical preferences. The underlying theory here is that in today's society, being omnivorous is a form of cultural capital. Cultural exclusivity is no longer valued as it may have been in the past and is more often a sign of ignorance rather than status. Hence, the hypothesis is that people today will use a wide knowledge of musical forms to help them network and "get ahead." This should be more important for people as they age because the need to network as a way of moving higher in the social economic hierarchy should be more important.

Additionally, it is hypothesized that women and whites will be more omnivorousness because they may feel less alienated in general from mainstream society, especially at younger ages. Hence, blacks and men will gravitate towards fewer genres of musical as a symbolic rejection of the values of mainstream society. This should also be more salient when people are younger.

Overall, the findings presented support the contention the omnivorousness is replacing exclusiveness as a sign of status. Indeed, the findings show that class is positively related to omnivorousness, age is positively related to omnivorousness, being female is positively related to omnivorousness, and that whites are more omnivorous than blacks.

Perhaps most interesting, however, is that the relationship between age and omnivorousness was determined to be a curvilinear relationship. No other analysts have reported this. Moreover, the findings present evidence that age may indeed be a more important determinant of musical omnivorousness than social class. Hence, it is concluded that no longer should musical preferences be examined simply as varying by social class but also as changing across the life cycle.

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