Harvard & Olive Garden

Tyler Cowen:

One lesson is that it’s harder to convince poorer individuals to mingle with wealthier individuals in settings where the culture is shaped to align with a higher socioeconomic status. Churches, for instance, are usually free and open to all — but the poor do not seem so keen on attending religious services in wealthier neighborhoods. Maybe that’s because they don’t view the wealthier church as a “better service” (however that might be defined) but rather as an environment where they do not feel entirely comfortable or welcome.

In other words: Wealthier institutions or establishments attract a mixed customer or user base only when they give up cultural control. Taller stained-glass windows and more comfortable pews can do only so much to attract lower-income churchgoers. (An aside: One nice feature of marketing “culture” — for lack of a better word — on the internet is that it can be broadly appealing. Classical music on YouTube, for example, is not only free but also free of snob appeal.)