If we acknowledge GDP per capita is a welfare index and it states the degree of economic development of an economy, we could say we are near to assert culture is a good proxy, and a trigger, to that concept.
This Wednesday we will be in Seville (Spain) explaining how in Spain culture is linked to economic development and welfare. This is a work-in-progress that Pau Rausell-Köster (econcult: Cultural and Tourism Research) and I are developing, and that started back in year 2005 when we applied a 'Malmquist Index / Data Envelopment Analysis' to Spanish cultural sector data in order to test for Baumol's disease; the results showed productivity increases above the Spanish average, which suggested culture was in good shape. Following this research line, and after we have updated our analysis this year, we consider the cultural sector as a good contender for leveraging economic and welfare growth.
At this point, we have started with a data panel of 230 European regions (including the Spanish ones), having calculated the cultural employment intensity (CEI: %employees to the economy). Now, the handicap is to test for causality: does GDPpc explain CEI?, does CEI explain GDPpc?, is it bi-directional?… we are hoping this will be a case for a virtuous circle.