Generational Changes in Materialism and Work Centrality, 1976-2007: Associations With Temporal Changes in Societal Insecurity and Materialistic Role Modeling
Personality & social psychology bulletin | 3 May 2013
JM Twenge and T Kasser
We examined whether culture-level indices of threat, instability, and materialistic modeling were linked to the materialistic values of American 12th graders between 1976 and 2007 (N = 355,296). Youth materialism (such as the importance of money and of owning expensive material items) increased over the generations, peaking in the late 1980s to early 1990s with Generation X and then staying at historically high levels for Millennials (GenMe). Societal instability and disconnection (e.g., unemployment, divorce) and social modeling (e.g., advertising spending) had both contemporaneous and lagged associations with higher levels of materialism, with advertising most influential during adolescence and instability during childhood. Societal-level living standards during childhood predicted materialism 10 years later. When materialistic values increased, work centrality steadily declined, suggesting a growing discrepancy between the desire for material rewards and the willingness to do the work usually required to earn them.
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