Comparison of Students 'Money Attitudes’: a Cross-Cultural Sampling of Selected U.S. and Japan Universities

ABSTRACT - The construct underlying money attitudes is complex and not well defined. The purpose of this exploratory study is to compare money attitudes of college students in Hawai'i and Japan, and to identify and compare the dimensions of their money attitudes cross-culturally. Factor analytic results indicate the presence of three identifiable factors for both groups and culture differences in the items loading highest under each of these factors.


Diane M. Masuo and Mahendra Reddy (1998) ,"Comparison of Students 'Money Attitudes’: a Cross-Cultural Sampling of Selected U.S. and Japan Universities", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, eds. Basil G. Englis and Anna Olofsson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 185-191.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, 1998      Pages 185-191


Diane M. Masuo, University of Hawai'i, U.S.A.

Mahendra Reddy, University of Hawai'i, U.S.A.

[Appreciation is expressed to Ginger Carey for her help in the preparation of this article.]


The construct underlying money attitudes is complex and not well defined. The purpose of this exploratory study is to compare money attitudes of college students in Hawai'i and Japan, and to identify and compare the dimensions of their money attitudes cross-culturally. Factor analytic results indicate the presence of three identifiable factors for both groups and culture differences in the items loading highest under each of these factors.


The construct underlying attitudes towards money is complex and despite considerable study, it is not well defined. One of the factors contributing to the lack of relevant information about how people feel about money is that money attitudes are multidimensional and as a result, only a few standardized instruments exist. Early research by psychotherapists such as Freud and Finichel (1947), while increasing understanding about the role of personality and money attitudes, were not empirically based (Neisser, 1960). Later research included several key studies that produced scales that measured the meaning of money, money in the past and in the future, the psychology of money, and money beliefs and behavior (Wernimont and Fitzpatrick 1972; Rubenstein, 1980; Yamauchi and Templer, 1982; Furnham, 1984; and Tang, 1992).

This research compares money attitudes of college students in Hawai'i and Japan, using a common survey instrument adapted from Yamauchi and Templer’s (1982) 'Money Attitude scale’ and Tang’s (1992) 'Money Ethic scale’. The purpose of this exploratory study is: (1) to compare money attitudes of American and Japanese young adults, and (2) to identify and compare the dimensions of their money attitudes cross-culturally. The hypothesized differences between the two groups are based on a review of the relevant literature from behavioral psychology, organizational behavior, and economic psychology.


Development of 'money attitude scale’

The two scales most related to this research are from Yamauchi and Templer (1982) and Tang (1992). Yamauchi and Templer (1982) developed a fully psychometrized Money Attitude Scale (MAS) based on previous work by psycho-therapists and personality theorists. Five factors were identified in the Yamauchi and Templer (1982) MAS. Tang (1992) developed a Money Ethics scale (MES) based on previous research by Maslow (1954), Wernimont and Fitzpatrick (1972), Furnham (1984) and Yamauchi and Templer (1982). Six factors were interpretable from the factor analysis of the MES data. In a follow-up study with Taiwan college students, Tang (1993) concluded that people’s money attitudes can be divided into three componentsBcognitive (achievement, respect, freedom/power), affective (good and evil) and behavioral (budget). Yamauchi and Templer’s (1982) five factors, together with Tang’s (1993) identification of three money attitude components form the conceptual basis for the factors identified in the present study.

Cross-cultural studies of money attitudes

Until recently there was little reason to study the money attitudes of people outside of the U.S., Germany and Japan. These developed market economy countries were the leading exporters in the world (U.N. Conference on Trade and DevelopmentBGeneva, 1995). By 1990, the balance of trading power had expanded to include Hong Kong and Taiwan, which has become one of the largest trading nations in the world. As Asia becomes a more dominant player in world trade, demand for knowledge about what their consumers are like will increase because of their potential buying power. While there have been studies comparing Chinese and American samples on a variety of cross-cultural issues (Hess, Chang and McDevitt, 1987; Ma, 1986; Tang, 1990b; Tang and Baumeister, 1984), few have examined inter-country differences in attitudes towards money except for Tng (1993), Bailey and Lown (1993), and Medina et al.(1996). Tang (1993) compared the results of within country analyses of Americans (adults living in Tennessee) and Taiwan college students who completed his 'Money Ethics scale’; Bailey and Lown (1993) compared American (adults living in 3 western state) with British (college students and adults) respondents on the origins of their money beliefs; and Medina et al. (1996) contrasted Mexican-Americans with Anglo-Americans, using Yamauchi and Templer’s (1982) 'Money Attitude scale’.

A review of the research on money attitudes suggests that several demographic variablesBgender, age, income, employment status, and ethnicity will be associated with money attitudes. Tang (1993) observed significant gender differences on items related to the Achievement and Respect factors in his 'Money Ethics scale’. Male Taiwanese students rated the factors 'achievement’ and 'respect’ considerably higher than the female students. Although based on an American sample, results from Tang’s 1992 study indicated that age and income are highly correlated to the factors 'evil’ and 'budget’. Young people and people with lower incomes rated money as being more evil and were less concerned about the budgeting or management aspects of money. Findings from Wernimont and Fitzpatrick’s (1972) study of a large, well distributed population of Americans suggest that employment status is related to how people feel about money. They reported significant differences on money attitudes by work status. The employed respondents viewed money more positively than those who were not employed. Medina et al.(1996) found significant ethnic differences on the dimensions of Retention/Time and Quality, but not on Power/Prestige and Distrust/Anxiety. Mexican-Americans expressed more present-oriented attitudes towards money and were more brand conscious (Quality dimension) in their purchases than their Anglo counterpart. The Medina et al. (1996) study focused on four of five money attitude factors from Yamauchi and Templer’s (1982), 'Money Attitude scale’ (MAS).

A modified MAS was selected over Tang’s (1992) 'Money Ethic scale’ (MES) and Furnham’s (1984) 'Money Past and Money Future scale’ because the MAS was validated with a more ethnically diverse sample than the other two scales. Yamauchi and Templer (1982) studied adults living in Los Angeles and Fresno, California, while Tang (1992) surveyed adults living in Tennessee and Furnham (1984) administered his survey to British college students and adults.


The research conducted by Yamauchi and Templer (1982) and Tang (1993) forms the basis for questionnaire development, data collection and analytical approach.

Sampling Framework

Questionnaire Development

The survey questionnaire was written in Japanese and back translated to English for accuracy. It had questions pertaining to the following four areas:

1. 'Money Attitude scale’ (adapted from Yamauchi and Templer, 1982)

2. Consumption and time use preference (Lifestyle indicator)

3. Sources of funding

4. Financial and socio-demographic background

Information on money attitude and consumption preferences were obtained via Likert-scaled items, rated on a 4-point scale (1=almost never to 4=almost always. Information on parental financial support for 15 diffeent goods and services, including expenses for tuition and books was obtained in categories ranging from 'paid 100% by parents’ to 'paid 100% by self’. Actual dollar amounts of other sources of income were collected along with information on demographic variables such as gender, age, living arrangement and marital status.

Data Collection

The subjects were recruited from Home Economics and Human Resources undergraduate classes at three sitesBAkita University and University of the Ryukyus in Japan, and the University of Hawai'i at Manoa in the U.S. The sample, while not representative of the general population in Japan and Hawai'i, are typical of undergraduates in Home Economics-related programs at the two sites in terms of gender, age and employment status. The subjects were asked to complete the 4-part survey in class using the pre-structured questionnaire described above. In Hawai'i the survey was administered to three different classes between Spring, 1996 and Spring, 1997. Testing in Japan occurred simultaneously in Fall, 1996 at Akita University and the University of the Ryukyus. Four separate classes completed the survey at Akita University and two classes were involved at the University of the Ryukyus.

Sample Composition

The sample consisted of 247 college students from Hawai'i and Japan, most of whom were female, unmarried, and under age 23. Of the total sample, 207 (84.5%) were female and 38 were male (15.5%). Over 91 percent of the students were not married and more than 80 percent were 22 years old or younger. A little less than half (47.2%) lived with parents and 70 percent of students worked for pay. The employed students earned between US$27 to US$3,200 per month and reported monthly total incomes between US$27 and US$3,750 from a variety of sources, including work, parents, scholarships and awards, and friends and relatives. Table 1 provides the socio-demographic characteristics of the two samples.

Analytical Framework

The analysis in this study was carried out in three stages. In first stage, a cross country comparison was carried out for all the variables used in this study using a t-test. The t-statistic which was than obtained was then tested for difference from zero at 5% level of significance. The second stage consisted of a confirmatory factor analysis. The model for the analysis was based on factors identified in previous work by Yamauchi and Templer (1982) on money attitudes and Tang (1992) on money ethics. A principal components analysis was run first to determine the appropriateness of using the factor analysis procedure. Then factors were extracted using a maximum likelihood method and a varimax rotation was applied to simplify interpretation of the results from the factor analysis.

The third stage of the analysis involved the identification of the various demographic variables that determine the factor composition for each country. An Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was carried out to enhance this.


Within-Country Comparison: t-test Results

Responses by the Hawai'i and Japan subjects to the 20 'Money Attitude scale’ items were compared using a series of t-tests. Table 2 summarizes the mean scores, t statistics and significance levels by group. Ratings on five out of 20 items differed significantly by country. Hawai'i students indicated lower preference for money over love, and for being rich, but rated saving for the future and for purchases, and viewing money as a symbol of respect and power more highly than the Japanese students.

Factor Identification and Composition: Factor Analysis

Factor-analytic results for Hawai'i and Japan are presented in Tables 3a and 3b respectively. Three interpretable factors were found for both the Hawai'i and the Japan samples. In Hawai'i, three factors accounted for 99.9% of the total variance; in Japan, three factors were responsible for 86% of the total variance. The small number of factors identified in this study as compared to previous research on money attitudes (Yamauchi and Templer, 1982) may be explained by the relatively small number of items in the modified 'Money Attitude scale’ that was used. The interpretable factors for both groups were similar, but items contributing to the factors differed by country.

Factor Analysis for Hawai'i.

For Hawai'i, the first factor is labeled Power/Prestige because the items with the highest loadings relate to money as a symbol of power and respect. Factor 1 accounts for over 46% of the variance and includes 4 items that load 0.40 and higher (Hair et al., 1995). Factor 2, which accounts for 31% of the variance, is called Time/Retention (Time Preference) since the highest loading items all relate to a present versus future orientation toward money. The Affective Component of money (+ve and -ve attitudes), the third factor, accounts for 22% of the variance and includes items that reflect positive and negative attitudes about money.

Factor Analysis for Japan.

The first factor for the Japan sample is also Power/Prestige. Factor 1 accounted for more than 33% of the variance. Time/Retention (Time Preference), factor 2, accounts for about 32% of the variance and includes items referring to the value of having possessions now rather than later. Factor 3, Affective Component, includes items reflecting positive and negative aspects of money, and accounts for 20% of the variance.

Determinants of Factor Composition: ANOVA Results

Previous research on money attitudes and money ethics (Tang, 1992, 1993; Wernimont and Fitzpatrick, 1972; Medina et al., 1996) has documented that money attitudes will differ by gender, age, income from work, employment status and ethnicity. To determine how these independent variables are related to the identified factors, a 1-way ANOVA procedure was used to examine between-country differences. Only Power/Prestige met the maximum likelihood extraction standards established for the factor analysis (loading of .40 or higher and Eigenvalues >1.00) and contained items common to both groups, therefore inter-country analysis was not pursued.



Table 4 summarizes the 1-way ANOVA results for Hawai'i and Japan. In Hawai'i, Power/Prestige and Time/Retention factor items differed by job, income and age, respectively. Higher job incomes were associated with higher ratings on the Power/Prestige factor, and respondents in the 23 years and older group held more present-oriented values for money thanthe younger group. Unlike the Hawai'i group, no significant differences were observed by age, gender, income from work, or employment status with the Japanese sample.


The major purpose of this study, which was to compare attitudes towards money cross-culturally, using a common scale was accomplished. Factor-analytic results confirmed the presence of money attitude factors similar to those identified in earlier studies of American and Taiwanese samples (Yamauchi and Templer, 1982; Tang (1992, 1993). Three factors were clearly interpretable. Factor 1 relates to Power/Prestige and Factor 2 to the Time/Retention (Time Preference) dimensions identified in Yamauchi and Templer’s (1982) 'Money Attitude scale’. Factor 3 relates more closely to the Affective Component factor identified by Tang (1993) in his 'Money Ethic scale’. Within each factor, however, there were culture differences in the number and kinds of items that loaded highest under each factor.





Significant culture differences were found on six out of 20 items in the 'Money Attitude scale’, using a t-test procedure. The Japanese sample was much less concerned about saving for the future or saving for purchases than the Hawai'i sample. A possible explanation for this finding is that the Japanese group was able to live for the present because they had fewer financial concerns. Japanese parents were two times more likely to pay for all of their children’s expenses for tuition (Hawai'ii, 43.3%; Japan, 85.9%) and books (Hawai'ii, 25.4%, Japan, 52.0%). One out of four Japanese subjects received a monthly allowance of between $501 and $1,500, while no Hawai'ii subject reported support at this level.





Money was seen as a symbol of respect and power more by the Hawai'i sample than the Japanese sample. The Hawai'i sample worked more hours (Hawai'i 73.88 hours/month; Japan 51.06 hours/month) and earned more from paid employment, and was more likely to have been exposed to the business viewpoint of money as a symbol of power than the Japanese group.

There is insufficient information on the psychological makeup of the Hawai'i sample to explain their low preference ratings for money over love, wanting to be rich rather than poor, and equating lavish spending with being spoiled. The high ratings by the Japanese group for money preference and their desire to be rich are consistent with their "live for the present" attitude. Because Japanese parents subsidize their children’s education to a larger extent than parents in Hawai'i, money is more likely to be viewed positively than for the Hawai'i students who are paying for more of their education and daily expenses.

Results from the 1-way ANOVA were mixed. Income differences on the Power/Prestige factor were expected for Hawai'i based on research by Tang (1992). He found that higher income people believe money is a symbol of achievement. In Hawai'i higher job income was associated with viewing money as a symbol of power and prestige.

The direct relationship between age and having present-oriented values for money was surprising, but research by Richins and Dawson (1992) on materialism and money attitudes provides some insight. After studying a broad cross-section of the population they found that money has different meanings to low and high materialistic people, and that relationships with money vary by one’s level of materialism.

The absence of any significant differences on the three identifiable factors by gender, age, income from work and employment status with the Japan sample was not expected, but may be due to a small sample size and limitations in instrument design. Developing a standardized scale that measures attitudes towards money continues to be a challenge. Results from this research indicate that the dimensions of Power/Prestige, Time/Retention, ad Affective Component (positive and negative feelings about money) are relevant across American, Taiwanese and Japanese samples and should be included in money attitude scales. What is more difficult is identifying items that relate to each of these dimensions cross culturally, because responses to items vary by country and will load differently from the original study.



Extension of this research can be made by expanding in two areas. Firstly, an improvement in the sampling approach and an increase in the sample size is warranted. The sampling framework should be designed in such a way so that a greater cross-section of the community is captured, with particular attention to age, ethnicity, profession and location (for ethnic and geographic diversity). To make results more valid statistically, appropriate sample size should be determined by looking at the variability of the key variable(s) in the study. Secondly, the instrument design should be extended, not only to enable the comparison of results with similar studies carried out elsewhere, but also to ensure that all known dimensions of money attitudes can be taken into account.


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Diane M. Masuo, University of Hawai'i, U.S.A.
Mahendra Reddy, University of Hawai'i, U.S.A.


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3 | 1998

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