Materialism and Post-Materialism

OWID presents work from many different people and organizations. When citing this entry, please also cite the original data source. This entry can be cited as:

Max Roser (2016) – ‘Materialism and Post-Materialism’. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/materialism-and-post-materialism/ [Online Resource]

This entry is concerned with the value change with respect to the materialistic or post-materialistic orientation of individuals and societies as a whole. The definition and measurement will be explained in the “Data Quality & Definition” section below in some detail. Materialists are mostly concerned with material needs and physical and economic security. In contrast to this, post-materialists ‘strive for self-actualization, stress the aesthetic and the intellectual, and cherish belonging and esteem’ as Held et al (2009) put it.1

# Empirical View

Shift toward post-materialist values among the publics of nine Western societies, 1970 and 2000 – Inglehart & Welzel (2005)2

The shift toward postmaterialist values among the publics of nine Western societies, (1970 and 2000) - Inglehart and Welzel (2005)

Change in materialist/post-materialist priorities in 5 EU countries, 1970 and 2000 – Welzel (2007)3

Change in Materialist-Postmaterialist Priorities in 5 EU-Countries - WVS0

Cohort analysis:  share of post-materialists minus the share of materialists in 6 West European societies, 1970-2006 – Inglehart (2008)4

Cohort Analysis - The share of Post-Materialists minus the share of Materialists in 6 West European Societies, (1970–2006) – Inglehart (2008)

# Correlates, Determinants & Consequences

# By Income of the Country

Materialist/post-materialist values by GNP per capita – Inglehart (2008)5

MaterialistPost-Materialist Values by GNPCapita – Inglehart (2008)0

# By Income of the Individual

Post-materialists by social positions, 1989-1993 – Nicolás (1995)6

Postmaterialists by social positions 1989-1993 – Nicolás (1995)

# By Level of Education

Materialism/post-materialism values by level of education of respondent in Germany7
Materialism/post-materialism values by level of education of respondent in Spain – Max Roser8
Materialism/post-materialism values by level of education of respondent in the USA9

# By Age

# Materialist/post-materialist value type by age group among the publics of Britain, France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands, 1970 – Inglehart & Welzel (2005)10
Materialist:Postmaterialist Value Type by Age Group, Among the Publics of Britain, France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, and The Netherlands in 1970 – Inglehart & Welzel (2005)

Materialist and post-materialist values in different generations in three Nordic countries, 1975-1987 – Knutsen (2007)11

Materialist and Post-Materialist Values in Different Generations in Three Nordic Countries (1975-87) – Knutsen (2007)0

# Data Quality & Definition

Much of this article here and of the measurement of materialism and post-materialism in general is based on a measure proposed by Ronald Inglehart in 1971.12
In this article he proposed the measure that is now called Inglehart’s  Post-Materialist index (4-item).13

The following survey question is the starting point for measuring materialism or post-materialism: “If you had to choose among the following things, which are the two that seem most desirable to you?

  • Maintaining order in the nation.
  • Giving the people more say in important political decisions.
  • Fighting rising prices.
  • Protecting freedom of speech.”

The measure is then based on the consideration that two of the items – the 1st and 3rd – were regarded as indicating “‘acquisitive value preferences’ as they relate to the protection and acquisition of property.” If the two post-materialist items are chosen the score is 3, if one post-materialist is chosen the score is 2, otherwise it is 1. As all of the choices might be desirable, the measure relates to the ‘relative priority’ of the materialistic choices over the 2nd and 4th policy goals and addresses the trade-offs that are typical for political choices. The conceptualization of post-materialism along a uni-dimensional continuum is close to the concept of the ‘hierarchy of needs’ proposed by Maslow. ‘Inglehart’s theory of value change is one that assumes a linear progression in discrete steps upwards of Maslow’s pyramid’.14

This very simple indicator was understandably only the starting point for measuring post-materialism. Inglehart himself proposed a more comprehensive 12-item measure.15 A weakness of the 4-item indicator, according to Inglehart himself, was that it is “excessively sensitive to short-term forces”.

The 12-item measure is based on the following set of questions:16

People sometimes talk about what the aims of this country should be for the next ten years. On this card are listed some of the goals which different people would give top priority. Would you please say which one of these you, yourself, consider the most important? (Code one answer only under “first choice”):
And which would be the next most important? (Code one answer only under “second choice”)

  • A high level of economic growth
  • Making sure this country has strong defense forces
  • Seeing that people have more say about how things  are done at their jobs and in their communities
  • Trying to make our cities and countryside more beautiful

If you had to choose, which one of the things on this card would you say is most important?
And which would be the next most important? (Code one answer only under “second choice”):

  • Maintaining order in the nation
  • Giving people more say in important government decisions
  • Fighting rising prices
  • Protecting freedom of speech

Here is another list. In your opinion, which one of these is most important? (Code one answer only under “first choice”):
And what would be the next most important? (Code one answer only under “second choice”):

  • A stable economy
  • Progress toward a less impersonal and more humane society
  • Progress toward a society in which Ideas count more than money
  • The fight against crime

# Data Sources

Data is available from the World Value Survey ‘Online Data Analysis’, online here. This website allows you to download the complete Values Studies results and makes it possible to visualize the data online.

The Inglehart (12-item) measure is also included in The Mannheim Eurobarometer Trend File, online at the University of Mannheim and at GESIS.