Who plays a musical instrument in elementary school?

The explanatory value of the family economic and cultural capital in the musical domain

  • Verena Wießnet Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • Marcus Penthin Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • Eva Susanne Fritzsche Technische Universität München
  • Stephan Kröner Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg


Playing a musical instrument requires economic capital and represents cultural capital. Thus, the odds to play an instrument are low for children from low-capital families. Moreover, if low-capital children are musically active, they should choose instruments providing lower distinction values. We investigated how economic capital (via highest International Socioeconomic Index of Occupation, HISEI) and music-related cultural capital (via parental musical activity) act together in explaining (a) whether children play any instrument and (b) explain the choice of classical vs. other vs. no instrument. We surveyed N = 685 students (Mage = 9.88, SD = 0.52, 50 % girls) from 16 elementary schools. Logistic regression (χ2 (2) = 93.94, p ≤ .01, n = 653; correctly classifying 60 % of the cases) showed that the odds of child musical activity increased both with parental HISEI (odds ratio for HISEI = 1.03, Wald χ2 (1) = 29.59, p ≤ 01) and parental musical activity (odds ratio = 3.02, Wald χ2 (1) = 35.70, p ≤ .01). Moreover, playing an instrument related to classical music was associated with both a higher parental HISEI (F(2, 659) = 33.95, p < .001; η= .09) and parental musical activity. Implications of our results for equal access to musical activities are discussed.

Wießnet, V., Penthin, M., Fritzsche, E. S., & Kröner, S. (2018). Who plays a musical instrument in elementary school?. Beiträge Empirischer Musikpädagogik, 9, 1-12. Abgerufen von https://b-em.info/index.php/ojs/article/view/166