American undergraduate students' value development during the Great Recession

Authors:
Heejung Park, Jean M. Twenge, Patricia M. Greenfield
Published Online:
15 Dec 2016
DOI:
10.1002/ijop.12410
Pages:
28–39
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 52 Issue 1

Additional Options

The Great Recession's influence on American undergraduate students' values was examined, testing Greenfield's and Kasser's theories concerning value development during economic downturns. Study 1 utilised aggregate‐level data to investigate (a) population‐level value changes between the pre‐recession (2004–2006: n = 824,603) and recession freshman cohort (2008–2010: n = 662,262) and (b) overall associations of population‐level values with national economic climates over long‐term periods by correlating unemployment rates and concurrent aggregate‐level values across 1966–2015 (n = 10 million). Study 2 examined individual‐level longitudinal value development from freshman to senior year, and whether the developmental trajectories differed between those who completed undergraduate education before the Great Recession (freshmen in 2002, n = 12,792) versus those who encountered the Great Recession during undergraduate years (freshmen in 2006, n = 13,358). Results suggest American undergraduate students' increased communitarianism (supporting Greenfield) and materialism (supporting Kasser) during the Great Recession. The recession also appears to have slowed university students' development of positive self‐views. Results contribute to the limited literature on the Great Recession's influence on young people's values. They also offer theoretical and practical implications, as values of this privileged group of young adults are important shapers of societal values, decisions, and policies.

© 2016 International Union of Psychological Science