Generational Differences in American Students' Reasons for Going to College, 1971-2014: the Rise of Extrinsic Motives
The Journal of social psychology | 18 Feb 2016
J Twenge and K Donnelly
We examined generational differences in reasons for attending college among a nationally representative sample of college students (N = 8 million), 1971-2014. We validated the items on reasons for attending college against an established measure of extrinsic and intrinsic values among college students in 2014 (n = 189). Millennials (in college 2000s-2010s) and Generation X (1980s-1990s) valued extrinsic reasons for going to college (“to make more money”) more, and anti-extrinsic reasons (“to gain a general education and appreciation of ideas”) less than Boomers when they were the same age in the 1960s-1970s. Extrinsic reasons for going to college were higher in years with more income inequality, college enrollment, and extrinsic values. These results mirror previous research finding generational increases in extrinsic values begun by GenX and continued by Millennials, suggesting that more recent generations are more likely to favor extrinsic values in their decision-making.
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