Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wealthy neighborhoods fuel materialistic desires, study says

Date:
February 13, 2014
Source:
San Francisco State University
Summary:
Living in a wealthy neighborhood could fuel feelings of materialism and compulsive spending, according to new research. Those living in affluent areas report more materialistic values and poorer spending habits than those in less well-off areas, particularly if they are young, city dwellers or relatively poor compared with their surroundings. Researchers believe the behavior stems from a desire to project a level of wealth that matches one's surroundings.

Where you live could affect whether or not you spend compulsively, according to new research from San Francisco State University published today in the Journal of Consumer Culture.

Individuals who live in wealthy neighborhoods are more likely to have materialistic values and poor spending habits, the study says, particularly if they are young, living in urban areas and relatively poor compared with their surroundings. The study is the first to show a connection between neighborhood socioeconomic status and materialism.

The reason for the link, said co-author and SF State Associate Professor of Psychology Ryan Howell, may have to do with "relative deprivation," or the feeling someone gets when they believe they are less well-off than those around them. If someone is bombarded with images or reminders of wealth, such as an abundance of investment banks nearby or neighbors driving luxury cars, they are likelier to feel a need to spend money they may not have to project an image of wealth they don't actually possess.

"People who live in more affluent areas are vulnerable to this implicit social comparison, where you start to see other people spending a lot of money," Howell said. "Because you feel the need to live up to that standard, you end up impulsively buying material items, even though they don't actually make you happier."

To conduct the study, researchers determined a neighborhood's socioeconomic status by looking at its per-capita income and poverty rate as well as the number of financial institutions present. That information was compared with survey data measuring participants' materialistic values, views about money and spending, and savings habits. After controlling for age, gender and individual socioeconomic status, researchers found residents of wealthier neighborhoods were likelier to be materialistic, spend compulsively and manage their money poorly than those living in less well-off areas.

The effect was seen especially in younger people, who Howell said tend to be more materialistic in general, those who live in urban areas, where residents are exposed to a larger socioeconomic spectrum, and those whose individual socioeconomic status is lower than their neighborhood's. Conversely, someone with a high individual socioeconomic status was less susceptible to such behavior.

"We did find that individual socioeconomic status is negatively correlated with materialism, so the more money you have for yourself, the less materialistic you are," said Jia Wei Zhang, lead author of the study and current University of California, Berkeley graduate student who conducted the research with Howell while an undergraduate at SF State. "But it doesn't fully negate the effect of a wealthy neighborhood. Regardless of how much someone is worth in general, the richer their neighborhood, the more likely they are to be materialistic, independent of their own socioeconomic status."

The next step in the research, Howell said, is to explore whether there are ways to counter a neighborhood's effect on an individual's materialistic values. This could be done simply by making more people aware of the correlation, or through interventions developed to make people feel more grateful for their status. As a first step they are inviting people to take the Materialistic Values Scale test at their website, BeyondThePurchase.Org.

"There are policy implications to all of this," he said. "Putting up billboards that flash materialism and wealth all over the place has an impact on people's value system. So we need to better understand the phenomenon, learn how far it extends, and how we can prevent it from happening."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by San Francisco State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. W. Zhang, R. T. Howell, C. J. Howell. Living in wealthy neighborhoods increases material desires and maladaptive consumption. Journal of Consumer Culture, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/1469540514521085

Cite This Page:

San Francisco State University. "Wealthy neighborhoods fuel materialistic desires, study says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140213220419.htm>.
San Francisco State University. (2014, February 13). Wealthy neighborhoods fuel materialistic desires, study says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140213220419.htm
San Francisco State University. "Wealthy neighborhoods fuel materialistic desires, study says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140213220419.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins