Research on cultural omnivorousness is expanded by examination of cultural participation and by anchoring omnivorousness alongside other patterns of cultural consumption in a comparative context over time in the USA. Between 1982 and 2002, at the aggregate level little change was found in cultural consumption of live performing arts, but patterns of attendance did change, with an increase in cultural differentiation. It was expressed in quasi-omnivorous and entertainment patterns that drew consumers away from more traditional highbrow consumption patterns. Increase in cultural differentiation was associated with rise in educational levels; this may reflect a link between the breadth of consumption patterns of the elite and their need for scale and synthesis in cultural knowledge. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.