Psychographic Variation ACRoss United States Geographic Regions

Lynn R. Kahle, University of Oregon
Ruiming Liu, University of Oregon
Harry Watkins, University of Oregon
ABSTRACT - As an extension of previous work on values and geographic segmentation (Kahle 1986), this paper tested the predicted geographic variation of each value from the List of Values, and related psychographic and behavioral measures, across four regions of the United States. The values of self-respect, warm relationships with others, self-fulfillment, sense of accomplishment, being well-respected, and sense of belonging, as well as theoretically-related measures of psychographics and behavioral measures, showed significant differences across regions. In contrast, security and fun and enjoyment in life, as well as their related psychographic and behavioral measures, showed no significant variations across regions. People in the West and East prize respect and sociability less highly than do people in the Midwest and South, with the difference between West and South being especially significant. The marketing implications are discussed.
[ to cite ]:
Lynn R. Kahle, Ruiming Liu, and Harry Watkins (1992) ,"Psychographic Variation ACRoss United States Geographic Regions", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, eds. John F. Sherry, Jr. and Brian Sternthal, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 346-352.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, 1992      Pages 346-352

PSYCHOGRAPHIC VARIATION ACROSS UNITED STATES GEOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Lynn R. Kahle, University of Oregon

Ruiming Liu, University of Oregon

Harry Watkins, University of Oregon

ABSTRACT -

As an extension of previous work on values and geographic segmentation (Kahle 1986), this paper tested the predicted geographic variation of each value from the List of Values, and related psychographic and behavioral measures, across four regions of the United States. The values of self-respect, warm relationships with others, self-fulfillment, sense of accomplishment, being well-respected, and sense of belonging, as well as theoretically-related measures of psychographics and behavioral measures, showed significant differences across regions. In contrast, security and fun and enjoyment in life, as well as their related psychographic and behavioral measures, showed no significant variations across regions. People in the West and East prize respect and sociability less highly than do people in the Midwest and South, with the difference between West and South being especially significant. The marketing implications are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

One of the key concepts and techniques in marketing is segmentation (Dickson and Ginter 1987), which is widely used by managers and researchers for market analysis. Although some popular segmentation strategies divide people based on geographic regions and although geographic segmentation is widely used in marketing consumer products, only a few scholars have considered the cross-frontier effects of relating geographic segmentation to consumer behavior. Kahle (1986) studied the variation of values among the "Nine Nations of North America" and among the different regions of the United States as defined by the U. S. Bureau of Census (BOC). Based on the theory of Garreau (1981, cf. William 1982, Baerwald 1983, Salter 1983, Major 1983), Kahle predicted that, because of the regional differences in political considerations, histories, loyalties, climates, resources, and other factors, the values also would vary across regions. He found significant variation across the four (and nine) regions defined by the BOC, but not across the "Nine Nations" described by Garreau (1981).

Rokeach (1973) states that values guide actions, attitudes, and judgments. Clawson and Vinson (1978) suggest that values perhaps equal or surpass the contribution of other major psychographic constructs including attitudes, product attributes, degrees of deliberation, product classification, and life style in understanding consumption behaviors. Furthermore, in an structural equation study Homer and Kahle (1988) provide evidence consistent with the theoretical flow:

consumer values -> attitudes -> consumer behaviors.

An expanding body of knowledge corroborates these conclusions as applied to the consumer behavior literature, but few studies demonstrate the function of geographic differences in this sequence.

It would be logical to conclude from the above work that, because values vary among regions and because values are closely related to activities, attitudes, opinions and other dimensions of psychographic profiles, which themselves are often directly related to behavior, these dimensions and behaviors should also vary by geographic region. Thus, one objective of the research reported here is to examine whether the previously-observed variation in values across geographic regions extends to the attitudes and behaviors most closely associated with those values.

Another issue is that Kahle (1986) examined the variation of the most important value of individuals in List of Values (LOV) across regions, but did not examine how individual value ratings vary by region. That is, the nominally-measured values do differ in that the proportion of people in each region who select each value as most important differ, but it is unclear whether similar patterns would emerge with intervally-measured values, considered on a value-by-value basis. This study addresses that issue of regional variation in the means of values.

In sum, this study attempts to test the variation of each individual value from the LOV (Kahle 1983) across the regions, and then it extends the test to other dimensions of consumers' psychographic profiles. Theoretically from the above discussion, the variation of each value across different regions should correspond with the variation of other dimensions of psychographics that are related to that value.

The general theoretical orientation guiding this research can be described in a simplified form by the diagram in Figure 1.

HYPOTHESES

H1: Each of the individual values of the LOV will vary significantly across the four geographic regions identified by the BOC, as hypothesized by Kahle (1986).

H2: Other psychographic dimensions, as well as behaviors that are most closely associated with each value, will also vary significantly and in a similar pattern to the value variation across the same four geographic regions.

METHOD

Data for this study came from a consumer mail panel study, which was based on a national quota sample of 640 respondents in the United States, designed to represent region, sex, age, income, and education accurately. The overall response rate was 66%, with no significant deviations from BOC proportions among the major demographic subgroups.

FIGURE 1

CONCEPTUAL MODEL

Regions were defined by states using the BOC definitions, as follows: East (New England: ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT; Mid-Atlantic: NY, PA, NJ, DE), Midwest (East North Central: WI, IL, MI, IN, OH; West North Central: ND, SD, MN, NE, KS, IA, MO), South (South Atlantic: WV, MD, DC, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL; East South Central: KY, TN, MS, AL; West South Central: TX, OK, AR, LA), and West (Mountain: NV, ID, MT, WY, UT, AZ, CO, NM; Pacific: CA, OR, WA, AK, HI). Region was defined by state in which a person was born rather than state in which a person currently resides because cultural transmission is often stronger from birth place than from place of current residence.

The List of Values (LOV) consists of 8 values for respondents to evaluate: self-respect, being well respected, sense of belonging, warm relationships with others, fun and enjoyment in life, self-fulfillment, sense of accomplishment, and security. For each value from the LOV, a Likert-type scale (1 to 7) was used, where "7" means "extremely important to me," and "1" means "not at all important to me." Following social science convention, these scales were assumed to be interval. ANOVA was used to test for value differences across the four regions defined by the BOC. Furthermore, the Tukey test was used to see how responses differ across the regions for each value.

Next, the measured dimensions of psychographics (also measured by 7 point Likert scales anchored by phrases such as "extremely important to me" vs. "not at all important to me," or "describes me extremely well" vs. "doesn't describe me at all,") were sorted into different categories based on the theoretical descriptions of the nine values of the LOV (cf. Kahle 1983; Kahle and Kennedy 1989). For instance, "I often go to a church or synagogue," "I identify strongly with people of my age," and "People should think about the good of society, not just about whatever makes them happy as individuals," are sorted into the Sense of belonging category; on the other hand, "I am polite and well-mannered," and "If everyone would just love one another as brothers and sisters, most of the world's problems would go away" are sorted into the Warm relationships with others category. This sorting process was carried out based on a combination of the results of a factor analysis and especially on the theory-driven judgement of three independent experts. The judgment process used the following procedure: (1) A value-related list of psychographic items was generated. (2) Each expert independently sorted the psychographic items into the different value categories based on prior knowledge of the categories. (3) The three experts came together and resolved any discrepancies among the judgments. After sorting, ANOVA was used to test the differences of each event in each category across the different regions.

In a few instances a particular lifestyle item was not viewed as uniquely applicable to only one value. Some values have overlapping spheres. For example, both warm relationships with others and sense of belonging have stronger implications for sociability than the other values; or both self-fulfillment and sense of accomplishment have a strong achievement component. Likewise, identical attitudes may result from different values for very different psychological reasons or very different means-ends ladders (Gutman 1982, Reynolds and Gutman 1988). For example, two people may prefer a wine cooler to a mixed drink because it contains less alcohol. In one case the decrease in alcohol content may be desired in order to be well respected, and in another case the desire may result from seeking to belong to a group in which excessive alcohol consumption is discouraged. The causal chains may differ, and the ideal consequences may differ, even though one point on the chains may be identical. Because we wanted to develop possible consequences of values rather than mutually-exclusive categorizations, we occasionally allowed lifestyle items to reflect more than one value.

TABLE 1

VALUE VARIATION BY REGION

TABLE 2

PSYCHOGRAPHIC VARIATION BY REGION UNDER THE CATEGORY SELF-RESPECT

Finally, by comparing the results of the experts' sorting with the empirical results, the degree of consistency in the variations of these dimensions of psychographics across the regions with the variations of each corresponding value will be evident.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The results are shown in Tables 1 through 7. In the Tables, region order means the ascending order of the means in different regions where E = East, M = Midwest, S = South, and W = West. For example, the order of W, E, M, S implies that the mean in the West is the smallest (i.e., "least important" or "least characteristic") and in the East is the second smallest. Comparison means that, given alpha = 0.05, a Tukey multiple pairwise comparison test shows the significantly different pairs of regions. For simplicity, we listed the results in only the four regions case, but not the nine regions case. The conclusions for the nine regions case are essentially the same as for the four regions case.

Table 1 shows the results of the comparisons of the four geographic regions for each of the LOV values. Only the importance ratings for security and fun and enjoyment in life failed to vary significantly by geographic region. Thus, Hypothesis 1 is generally supported. People in the West and East prize respect (self-respect, being well-respected) and sociability (warm relationships with others, sense of belonging) less highly than do people in the Midwest and South, with the difference between West and South being especially significant. People in the Midwest, West, and East prize achievement (self-fulfillment, sense of accomplishment) less highly than do Southerners, with the difference between the Midwest and the South being especially significant.

Perhaps the most interesting observation from these data is that the Southern region assigned the highest ratings to all of these values. This result may be due to any one of several factors. 1) The difference may be a measurement artifact. Perhaps these particular values have more appeal or are more appropriate for the South than for other regions. We have previously argued that the proper list of values may vary geographically by continent (Liu and Kahle 1989); the same argument may apply within a country. 2) The difference may be a regionally-based response style. Although it seems unlikely, perhaps people in the South use rating scales differently than people in other parts of the United States. 3) The psychological importance of values may be greater in the South than in other regions. Theoretically, this possibility is the most intriguing. Clearly additional research on this topic would be interesting.

TABLE 3

PSYCHOGRAPHIC VARIATION BY REGION UNDER THE CATEGORY WARM RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS

TABLE 4

PSYCHOGRAPHIC VARIATION BY REGION UNDER THE CATEGORY SELF-FULFILLMENT

TABLE 5

PSYCHOGRAPHIC VARIATION BY REGION UNDER THE CATEGORY SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT

Neither the values of security, fun and enjoyment in life, nor their related psychographics and behaviors, are viewed significantly differently across geographic regions. One explanation for this lack of variation might be the prevalence of these values in nation-wide activities and services, such as communications. For instance, the nationwide equivalent occurrence of security-related phenomena, such as insurance companies, crime, disease, and death, may lead to equivalent concerns for the value of security. Threats to security, such as military threats, may be more national than regional. For fun and enjoyment in life, the nationwide occurrence of sporting events, television entertainment, magazines, movies, and other factors may lead to equivalent concerns for that value. Likewise, intra-regional variability may create large variances. What people mean by fun may vary more between some pairs of Western states (e.g., California vs. Alaska, Nevada vs. Utah) than between the West and Midwest, for example.

TABLE 6

PSYCHOGRAPHIC VARIATION BY REGION UNDER THE CATEGORY BEING WELL-RESPECTED

TABLE 7

PSYCHOGRAPHIC VARIATION BY REGION UNDER THE CATEGORY SENSE OF BELONGING

The focus of this research is to provide additional support for the notion that both values and related lifestyles vary by geographic region. Hypothesis 2 states that other psychographic dimensions, as well as behaviors that are most closely associated with each value, will also vary significantly and in a similar pattern to the value variation across the same four geographic regions. In general Tables 2 through 7 show support for this hypothesis. Most of the lifestyle items measured in this study vary significantly across regions, and many (but not all) vary in patterns that reflect their associated value.

Table 2 presents the comparisons by geographic region for the lifestyle items associated with self-respect. Self-respect is accorded the lowest rating by respondents from the West, followed by the East, the Midwest, and the South. This general pattern is reflected by many of the lifestyle items. For example, Southerners are particularly likely to be independent in terms of their buying patterns. This finding would suggest, for example, that retailers may need to offer a wider selection in the South than in the West.

Table 3 presents the comparisons by geographic region for the lifestyle items associated with warm relationships with others. This value is rated similarly by respondents from the East, the West, and the Midwest, but it is rated significantly higher by respondents from the South. Similarly, Southerners rate the associated lifestyle items more favorably than respondents from other regions. These results might be of interest, for example, to fund raisers targeting different regions.

Table 4 presents the comparisons by geographic region for the lifestyle items associated with self-fulfillment. For example, Midwesterners rate self-fulfillment relatively unfavorably. In this region the value seems to be reflected in lifestyle terms by a high interest in improving health and appearance but not by self-perceived attractiveness. Midwesterners are relatively unlikely to pursue information concerning these interests in fashion magazines. In contrast, Southerners, who rate self-fulfillment favorably, also rate health favorably but already viewed themselves as attractive. They are more likely to read self-improvement books. These data provide mixed support for Hypothesis 2.

Table 5 presents the comparisons by geographic region for the lifestyle items associated with sense of accomplishment. Of the lifestyle items in this table, only the item on mail-order purchasing demonstrates the identical rating pattern across regions as was exhibited by the sense of accomplishment value. Southerners, who rate sense of accomplishment favorably, are relatively concerned about time spent watching television and preparing meals. Easterners and Westerners are less likely to value planning for the future, reexamining goals, and buying high quality products. These results suggest, for example, that advertisements that tie product quality to the value of a personal sense of accomplishment will be more effective in the South than in the East or West.

Table 6 presents the comparisons by geographic region for the lifestyle items associated with being well respected. Westerners are relatively likely to rate this value low. Respondents are concerned about moral values and about personal tidiness. Drinking imported beer is prized less by Midwesterners than by respondents from the East. Again, Hypothesis 2 received mixed support.

Table 7 presents the comparisons by geographic region for the lifestyle items associated with sense of belonging. The items deemed to be associated with this value fall into two categories. One category, which closely follows the regional pattern of the base value, consists of items measuring respondents' relationships and identities with relative abstractions such as God, society, and their race and ethnic group. Westerners placed the least emphasis on these items. The other category of items involved more concrete relationships with employers, parents, and families, as well as feelings of personal loneliness. These items were emphasized by Easterners. Of these items, Southerners placed the most favorable ratings on lifestyle items related to the family.

Overall, the data in Tables 2-7 show parallel patterns to the data in Table 1. For 20 of the 47 items included in the Tables 2-7, the same exact pair of post-hoc comparisons emerged as significant at the .05 level. Given 4 regions, the total number of possible different pairs would be the permutation, 4!/2! = 12. The probability of any given pair being chosen would be 1/12. According to binomial probability distribution, the p-value of 20 particular (i.e., significant) pairs being chosen would be:

EQUATION

Thus, with any reasonable alpha level we can reject the null hypothesis that the lifestyle pairings resulted from a random process.

IMPLICATIONS

People's activities, interests, opinions, and attitudes, vary approximately as do their related values. This pattern fits the value-attitude-behavior hierarchy hypothesized by Homer and Kahle (1988). Value information can aid in understanding lifestyle and consumer behavior, consistent with the theory presented in the Introduction section and elsewhere (e.g., Kahle 1986). Marketing managers ought to recognize the importance of geographic differences in values and lifestyles. When marketing managers try to meet consumers' needs in terms of self respect, warm relationships with others, being well-respected, and/or sense of belonging, they should consider the differences across the four regions, especially the differences between the West and the South.

Values have the potential to help clarify consumers' motivations and may point to the underlying "rationality" or "psycho-logic" of ostensibly illogical buying decision processes. Marketers can use value-behavior linkages or value chains to help measure and understand consumers' involvement with a product. Similarly, value chains provide the opportunity to develop advertising programs that tie product benefits to consumers' personal meanings at several, increasingly meaningful levels of abstraction. Furthermore, efforts to measure advertising effectiveness may be improved by assessing how successfully the ads tie product meanings back to personal values. Even if value and lifestyle information is not directly utilized, creatives can understand the characteristics of certain regions and target segments if this type of information is available.

Because these value-behavior linkages or chains vary geographically, managers have some potentially useful segmentation opportunities. Consumers could be segmented by value chains, and then the value chain segments could be prioritized by geography for further regionally-focused marketing attention. This prioritizing could be of significant utility to marketers attempting either to develop regional products or to market national products on a regionally-sensitive basis. It may even be possible to decide whether to use values to segment based on these results. For example, Westerners appear to place a less weight on the core values than do Southerners. Thus, an advertising campaign for a product in the South might emphasize value fulfillment more, whereas a campaign in the West might emphasize benefits and more literal aspects of consumption. For another example, because people view security and fun and enjoyment in life no differently across the nation, marketing managers in nation-wide companies who sell security-oriented products or services might well advertise most effectively on nation-wide TV programs or in nation-wide magazines. The extra effort of geographic segmentation is lost for products and services that tie to these values.

Because these data were collected more than a decade after the data were collected for the Kahle (1986) study and because this study relied on interval rather than nominal data, it implies that geographic differences have a certain robustness. These results suggest that the underlying geographic differences within the United States have a persistent and detectable effect on consumer activities.

CONCLUSION

As an extension of Kahle's work (1986), this paper tests the variations of each value and related psychographic and behavioral measures across four regions of the United States. Self-respect, warm relationships with others, self-fulfillment, sense of accomplishment, being well-respected and sense of belonging, and theoretically-related psychographic and behavioral measures, show significant differences across the regions. In contrast, security, excitement, and fun and enjoyment in life, and related psychographic and behavioral measures show no significant variations across the regions. People in the West and East prize respect and sociability less highly than do people in the Midwest and South, with the difference between West and South being especially significant. We have only just begun to understand all of the marketing implications of these findings.

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