Value Segmentation of the Hong Kong Chinese: Perceived Values of Gender Categories

ABSTRACT - A field survey using the Rokeach Value Survey was conducted among 1199 Chinese men and women in Hong Kong, to compare the extent of gender differentiation of instrumental as well as terminal values. The factors of instrumental values were found to be sociability, ability, and fluidity. The factor structure of terminal values included humanism, achievement, and hedonism. There were significant gender differences in personal values as well as stereotypical feminine and masculine values. The findings are discussed in terms of an effective market segmentation based on value dissimilarities of gender subcultures.


Corinna T. de Leon and Jan Selmer (1994) ,"Value Segmentation of the Hong Kong Chinese: Perceived Values of Gender Categories", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. Joseph A. Cote and Siew Meng Leong, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 171-177.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1994      Pages 171-177


Corinna T. de Leon, City Polytechnic of Hong Kong

Jan Selmer, Hong Kong Baptist College

[This study is part of a research project funded by the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong.]


A field survey using the Rokeach Value Survey was conducted among 1199 Chinese men and women in Hong Kong, to compare the extent of gender differentiation of instrumental as well as terminal values. The factors of instrumental values were found to be sociability, ability, and fluidity. The factor structure of terminal values included humanism, achievement, and hedonism. There were significant gender differences in personal values as well as stereotypical feminine and masculine values. The findings are discussed in terms of an effective market segmentation based on value dissimilarities of gender subcultures.


Throughout the history of social research, social and personal values have been considered to be the fundamental core of human motivation and behaviour. For example, Kamakura & Mazzon (1991) identified the various value systems in a population through the Rokeach Value Survey (RVS), and classified market segments accordingly. The value segmentation of markets is seen as providing more accurate, more predictable, and more stable basis for market targeting and positioning. Values, attitudes and beliefs have been specified as factors which explain variations in the behaviour of consumers belonging to various market segments (Pitts and Woodside, 1991). The impact of personal values on brand choice, product usage, and market segmentation has been established by a number of studies (Beatty, 1989; Grunert, Grunert & Beatty, 1989; Munson & McQuarrie, 1988; Perkins & Reynolds, 1988; Tse, Wong & Tan, 1988).

Cross-cultural research in marketing which examined value constructs pursued three main streams: The first stream was studies on cross-cultural differences in consumer attitudes and values (Beatty, Kahle & Homer, 1991; Cheron, Padget and Woods, 1987a, 1987b; Plummer, 1977; Richins and Verhage, 1985; Tse, Wong and Tan, 1988). The second stream focused on relationships between consumption patterns and values (Schopphoven, 1991), some of which gauged the impact of values on product/brand preferences (Perkins and Reynolds, 1988; Reynolds and Gutman, 1984, 1988). The third stream of marketing research examined values as the basis for market segmentation (Boote, 1981; Holman, 1984; Kahle, 1986; Kamakura and Mazzon, 1991; Muller, 1988, 1989, 1991).

Vinson and Munson (1976) discovered that the terminal values of an exciting life and pleasure influenced the appeal of travel to different market segments. Boote (1981) reported that personal values can be more powerful variables than demographic characteristics in segmenting the family restaurant market. Pitts and Woodside (1983, 1991) verified the relationship between specific value orientations to product class/brand preference and consumer decision-making. Luk, de Leon, Leong & Li (1993) found that in Hong Kong, terminal values were significant factors for segmentation of tourists based on expectations of service quality.

In an earlier study, de Leon & Selmer (1993) found that Hong Kong Chinese perceived value similarity between nationality categories of ethnic Chinese, indicating the emergence of an "international Chinese" culture among overseas residents. The mediating effects of gender were controlled by restricting the data collection to terminal values among male respondents. The present study attempted to expand the depth of the investigation by directly examining the values associated with the gender subcultures in contemporary Hong Kong society. This investigation delved into possible differences between male and female respondents, not only in terminal values but also in instrumental values.


A study conducted among the Singaporean Chinese by de Leon & Selmer (1990b) identified sociability, ability, and fluidity as the factors of instrumental values. An earlier survey by de Leon & Selmer (1993) confirmed that the factor structure of terminal values of Hong Kong men included humanism, hedonism, and achievement. The first two hypotheses of this study are that the factor structures of instrumental and terminal values among Hong Kong men and women will be similar to that found in earlier studies done by de Leon & Selmer (1993; 1990b):

Hypothesis 1: The instrumental values of Hong Kong Men and Hong Kong Women will be structured by highly reliable factors of sociability, ability, and fluidity.

Hypothesis 2: The terminal values of Hong Kong Men and Hong Kong Women will be structured by highly reliable factors of humanism, hedonism, and achievement.

In traditional Chinese beliefs, Yin and Yang are the two complementary forces of the universe. Yang is the masculine force, associated with brightness, warmth, solidity, and hardness; whereas, Yin is the feminine force, signifying darkness, coolness, liquidity, and softness. In modern Chinese society, the Yin-Yang principle implies equivocally the complementarity of masculinity and femininity in either gender or, on the other hand, substantial differentiation between men and women. In any case, the Yin-Yang principle may structure relevant schemata based on perceived differences in values between gender categories within the Chinese culture.

The emphasis in Chinese philosophy on the balance between the two opposite but complementary life-forces has constructed distinct sex-roles in Chinese culture (de Leon & Ho, 1994). Children learn male-female stereotypes earlier in countries where gender-role was highly differentiated, "affecting the child's perceptions of himself and others" (Williams & Best, 1990, p.304). Lau & Wong (1992) found that masculine and feminine adolescents (as measured by a sex-role inventory) were very dissimilar in instrumental values although similar in terminal values, and that masculinity tended to have more pervasive effects than femininity on the value hierarchy. Hui (1988) found that collectivism and social desirability were positively correlated among the Hong Kong Chinese, but the female subjects were more collectivist and socially oriented than the male subjects. Previous research has shown that beliefs and perceptions of distinct gender differences in the workplace are widespread in contemporary Hong Kong (e.g. de Leon & Ho, 1994; So & Young, 1991; Young, 1991).

Gender differences may function as cognitive reference points in Chinese society, providing the basis for classifying, anchoring and objectifying people. An ingrained system of beliefs on male-female/Yin-Yang complementarity would emphasize masculine values versus feminine values. In a study of more than 2,000 Singaporean Chinese, de Leon & Selmer (1990b) verified gender differentiation of instrumental values; that is, sociability was perceived by the men and women as the most important Yin (feminine) factor, while ability was identified as the most important Yang (masculine) factor. Although Chinese culture is relatively homogenous, effective value segmentation may be directly linked to strong gender subcultures which arise from stereotypes of male-female divergence. This study explored the extent of gender differentiation of values among the Hong Kong Chinese, by testing the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 3: There will be significant differences in the personal values of the Hong Kong Men and the Hong Kong Women, in reference to instrumental values and terminal values.

Hypothesis 4: There will be significant differences in the perceived values of the typical man and of the typical woman, in reference to instrumental values and terminal values.


A total of 1,199 ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong participated in the survey. An area-probability sampling procedure was used, drawing about 100 primary sampling areas (psa) throughout Kowloon, Victoria Island (Hong Kong) and the New Territories. In each psa, twelves households were systematically selected from an initial starting point which had been randomly specified on an area map. The requirement for a male or female respondent was randomly assigned to the chosen households, using a procedure for listing the characteristics of all household members.

The selected sample was comprised of 50.3% male and 49.7% female. Equal sample allocations within the age of 20 to 65 years old were attempted, resulting in 28.5% who were 20-30 years old, 26.1% who were 31-40 years old, 23.0% who were 41-50 years old, and 22.3% who were 51-65 years old. The majority of the respondents (44.8%) completed secondary level education, with 21% having received primary level education, and 34.4% achieving post-secondary/tertiary level education. In terms of occupation, 23.6% were professionals, 36.9 were clerical/skilled workers, and 39.5% unskilled/ housewife/ student/ retired/ others. About one-third (35.5%) of the sample were single, 60% were married, and the rest were divorced/widowed. Sixty-five percent of the sample had incomes below HK$20,000 per month.

The respondents presented the 18 instrumental values and 18 terminal values of the RVS. The 7-point scales had bipolar labels of "not important at all" and "very important". Multiple responses were required, as the 36 values were rated three times; that is, the respondents were first asked to respond in reference to "Myself", then to "Typical Women" and "Typical Men". The self-administered questionnaire was presented in both English and Chinese, with each of the 36 values shown with additional synonyms in both languages.


Hypothesis 1

Among the total sample of Hong Kong Men and Women, the Personal Factors ("myself") of instrumental values were defined to be sociability (8 items), ability (7 items), and fluidity (3 items), as presented in Table 1. The reliability of the inventory for the three factors was acceptable (Cronbach's alpha>.60). The eigenvalues for sociability and ability were greater than 1.0, but this was not the case for fluidity. However fluidity was included in the following analyses for exploratory purposes. The three factors accounted for 40% of the variance in instrumental values.

Hypothesis 2

As shown in Table 2, the factor structure of personal terminal values for Hong Kong Men and Women was comprised of humanism (11 items), achievement (4 items), and hedonism (2 items). Cronbach's alpha coefficients indicated that humanism and achievement were highly reliable measurements. The reliability of hedonism was considered to be acceptable, as its alpha approached .60. Although its eigenvalue was below 1.0, hedonism was included in the following analyses for exploring theoretical implications based on the humanism/hedonism dimensions emphasized by Schwartz & Struch (1989). These three factors accounted for 40% of the variance.

Hypotheses 3 & 4

Multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA) for Personal Factors, Yin Factors, and Yang Factors tested the effects of Gender and Age as independent variables (Table 3). For Personal Factors ("myself"), there was a significant multivariate interaction effect between Gender and Age (p>.05), mainly accounted for by differences in fluidity and humanism (p>.01). Gender had a main effect, mainly due to significant differences in ability and achievement. Factor means (Table 4) indicated that the lowest value was given to personal achievement and personal ability by Hong Kong Women, which is probably explained by feminine (Yin) achievement and feminine ability being given least importance by both male and female samples. A main effect for Age was also shown, with the four age categories having significantly different values for five out of the six factors.

For the Yin Factors ("typical woman"), there was no interaction effect between Gender and Age and no main effect due to Age. Only Gender accounted for significant differences in the Yin Factors, specifically in sociability and hedonism. For the Yang Factors ("typical man"), the multivariate F-ratios for the main effects were significant, but not for the interaction effect between Gender and Age. The univariate analyses of variance showed significant difference between Hong Kong Men's and Women's assessments of the importance of sociability to the typical man. The four age categories significantly differed in their perceptions of the masculine and feminine dimensions of ability and achievement.

The importance given by Hong Kong Men to all six Personal Factors were comparable. However Hong Kong Women expressed that for themselves ability and achievement had the lowest values, and humanism was of greatest importance. Both male and female respondents perceived "typical women" as giving priority to hedonism, humanism and sociability (Yin Factors). There was agreement between Hong Kong Men and Women that hedonism, achievement, and ability were most important to typical men (Yang Factors).


Supporting Hypotheses 1 and 2, three factors of instrumental values and three factors of terminal values were identified. Similar to the finding of de Leon & Selmer (1990b), instrumental values were comprised of sociability, ability, and fluidity factors. In the analysis of terminal values, the factors of universalistic humanism and particularistic humanism, as defined in de Leon & Selmer's (1993) study among Hong Kong Men, combined into a single factor of humanism in this investigation of Hong Kong Men and Women. Achievement was another highly reliable factor of terminal values. Despite its weak factor structure, hedonism was included in all the analyses for exploratory purposes.





Hypothesis 3 was confirmed by the MANOVA which showed that an interaction between Gender and Age accounted for significant differences in Personal Factors. The gender of the respondent significantly affected not only Personal Factors, but also perceptions of the stereotypical Yin and Yang Factors, supporting Hypothesis 4. Age had main effects on most of the six Personal Factors, but had limited impact on Yang Factors and no effect on Yin Factors.





The intent of this investigation was to assess the impact of Chinese heritage and culture in a rapidly modernizing region. Probably due to the prevalence of an insecure national identity in culturally diversified Asia, the overseas Chinese tend towards a strengthening of their shared cultural origin. The gender differentiation observed in traditional Chinese societies was shown in this study to be still prevalent in contemporary Hong Kong. Specific values were identified to be more characteristic of women, and other values were seen as typical of men.

Hui & Villareal (1989; Hui, 1988) had earlier observed that among the Hong Kong Chinese, collectivism was related to affiliation but not to autonomy. In this study, the importance of humanism as a Yin Factor, but not of achievement or ability, indicates that collectivism is still of special pertinence to Hong Kong women. On the other hand, achievement and ability were defined as characteristically masculine values.

As shown in earlier investigations (de Leon & Selmer, 1989; 1990a, 1990b), there were perceived value dissimilarities between the individual self and the "typical" exemplar of one's own social category (e.g., gender). This finding is not unexpected, as certain traits which are accepted for one's gender category may be excluded from one's self-description (Jaspers & Warnaen, 1982). Such reported dissimilarities may be more an attempt to establish individuality, rather than to negate gender identification (Turner, 1985, 1987). "What people constructed while attempting to think of a typical group may not be the same as what is activated spontaneously when individuals are not considering typicality" (Dovidio, et. al., 1986, p.35). It has been shown that cohesive and ideologically articulate groups could still respond as individuals rather than as group members (Ng & Wilson, 1989). Values are the basis not only for an individual identity based on distinctiveness, but also for a collective identity based on typicality.

Rokeach's Value Survey has been extensively used and validated, not only in Hong Kong but in many other countries (c.f., Bond, 1988; Hofstede & Bond, 1984; Ng, et. al, 1982). The simplicity of the RVS structure facilitated the administration of the questionnaire, since this study required multiple responses. However, future attempts at conclusive research should consider the use of expanded versions of the RSV which has been cross-culturally validated, such as those by Schwartz & Bilsky (1987, 1990) or Braithwaite & Law (1985). New value dimensions should be included, such as the dimension of power discovered by Schwartz & Bilsky (1990) as relevant to Hong Kong. The inventory on hedonism should be expanded to a larger inventory, as the RSV provides a maximum of three possible items for inclusion. Furthermore the measurement of humanism could be refined, so as to separate into two dimensions of universalistic and particularistic humanism (as defined by de Leon & Selmer 1993, but not here), towards the development of a more stable construct validity for testing pancultural similarity.

Despite the direct relevance of cognition to cross-cultural management (Redding, 1980), the social psychological theories of social categorization and social representations have not been widely considered in the literature of international marketing. Social categorization pertains to the cognitive process of segmenting and classifying the social environment. Social representations are complex cognitive systems of perceived values and ideas for the organization of social reality. Masculine and feminine values link social categories with social representations, in that male and female categories are associated with systems of beliefs. In this study, value segmentation pertains to a collective awareness of gender, beyond individual differences, based on a perception of shared values among men and among women.

"It is crucial and beneficial for international marketing managers to understand the Chinese ... value systems" (Yau, 1988, p.44), not only in segmenting the international market but also in understanding the premises of consumer behaviour in Chinese cultures (Yau, 1994). For example, due to "face concern", Chinese consumers are less likely to complain when the situation involves direct confrontation with the responsible party than when it did not, mainly because of the perceived cost of losing face (Chiu, Tsang and Yang, 1988). McCullough, Tan & Wong (1986) concluded that Chinese ethnicity provides insights not only on international markets but also on global consumer segments: (p. 576-8).

"The Chinese exist as ethnic subgroups in most countries and as the dominant group in many parts of Asia.... Clearly, in the case of Chineseness, the measurement of ethnicity became largely of values....Ethnicity provides a vehicle for examination of culture difference in a systematic fashion across national boundaries by identifying similar subgroups in a variety of countries rather than by describing specific groups in selected environments....From a marketing perspective, ethnicity was initially a demographically defined concept....The fact that similarities in values and behavior associated with ethnicity can be found in apparently unrelated and diverse groups in different international environments provides a clue to an operational definition of ethnicity: affiliation with a group of individuals in a culture holding similar values, attitudes, and beliefs and exhibiting similar behavior without regard for race, religion, or national origin. Ethnicity becomes, therefore, not a demographic, but a psychographic characteristic.... (which) should facilitate extension of marketing programs and consumer behavior concepts internationally."

As Asia emerges as a major market, management has characteristically assumed a multicultural perspective. It has been assumed that Chinese markets in various geographic locations share cultural similarities. However, values rather than geographic origin are a more powerful discriminant of more meaningful market segments (Kahle, 1986). The findings of the present study indicate that within the same culture, value segmentation is the means towards more effective marketing strategies. Of particular interest is the emergence of gender subcultures within the contemporary Chinese society which mediate the impact of traditional cultural values.


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Corinna T. de Leon, City Polytechnic of Hong Kong
Jan Selmer, Hong Kong Baptist College


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1 | 1994

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