A Post-Material Perspective: the Influence of Financial Detachment on Consumers’ Happiness

EXTENDED ABSTRACT - A central theme in marketing is to satisfy consumers, which subsequently aims at consumers’ well-being and happiness (Fournier and Mick 1999). This connection between consumer satisfaction and well-being is based on the assumption that individuals who have access to affluent consumption should express a high level of happiness. [For instance the hierarchy of need satisfaction has received much attention in the marketing of products and services. In Solomon=s book (1999), self-actualization, the highest point of consumers= need, is reached through the consumption of Aeducation, hobbies, and travel@. Having self-actualization linked to specific products and activities levels is to say that consumption can fulfill Aultimate@ needs, such as justice, beauty, and happiness.] From this perspective, it is expected that individuals who have access to consumption should express a high level of happiness. However, several prominent authors have pointed that access to material goods does not necessarily correlate with a higher level of happiness. During the period of increasing material prosperity in the United States, from early 1970’s to late 1990’s, researchers reported that happiness has been dropping (Myers 2000a; Myers 2000b; Schwartz 2004). In 1986, Wholey reported that only 20% of Americans are happy (Wholey 1986). And in 1995, Easterlin concluded that economic growth does not bring happiness to a society (Easterlin 1995). Consistent with those findings, consumer behaviorists have noted in the late 1990’s that consumers’ increasing ability to acquire and possess more material goods does not necessarily makes them happier (Belk 1995; Cherrier 2002; Cherrier and Murray 2001; Richins and Dawson 1992).



Citation:

Helene Cherrier (2005) ,"A Post-Material Perspective: the Influence of Financial Detachment on Consumers’ Happiness", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, eds. Yong-Uon Ha and Youjae Yi, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 347-348.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2005      Pages 347-348

A POST-MATERIAL PERSPECTIVE: THE INFLUENCE OF FINANCIAL DETACHMENT ON CONSUMERS’ HAPPINESS

Helene Cherrier, University of Westminster, UK

EXTENDED ABSTRACT -

A central theme in marketing is to satisfy consumers, which subsequently aims at consumers’ well-being and happiness (Fournier and Mick 1999). This connection between consumer satisfaction and well-being is based on the assumption that individuals who have access to affluent consumption should express a high level of happiness. [For instance the hierarchy of need satisfaction has received much attention in the marketing of products and services. In Solomon=s book (1999), self-actualization, the highest point of consumers= need, is reached through the consumption of "education, hobbies, and travel". Having self-actualization linked to specific products and activities levels is to say that consumption can fulfill "ultimate" needs, such as justice, beauty, and happiness.] From this perspective, it is expected that individuals who have access to consumption should express a high level of happiness. However, several prominent authors have pointed that access to material goods does not necessarily correlate with a higher level of happiness. During the period of increasing material prosperity in the United States, from early 1970’s to late 1990’s, researchers reported that happiness has been dropping (Myers 2000a; Myers 2000b; Schwartz 2004). In 1986, Wholey reported that only 20% of Americans are happy (Wholey 1986). And in 1995, Easterlin concluded that economic growth does not bring happiness to a society (Easterlin 1995). Consistent with those findings, consumer behaviorists have noted in the late 1990’s that consumers’ increasing ability to acquire and possess more material goods does not necessarily makes them happier (Belk 1995; Cherrier 2002; Cherrier and Murray 2001; Richins and Dawson 1992).

One of the consequences of feeling unhappy with consumption is an increasing consumer resistance. In search for happiness, certain consumers have "simplified their life", "downshifted", and "lowered their consumption" (Cherier 2002). This inclination toward lowering consumption practices poses a practical problem in marketing. Satisfying consumers who voluntary choose to downshift their consumption lifestyle and resist the market system is difficult to achieve. That is even truer for politically motivated consumer resistance groups who use public space (e.g., Buy-Nothing-Day) and discursive space (e.g. http://www.simpleliving.net/ Adbusters magazine) to expose consumers to the negative aspects of extravagant and/or conspicuous consumption. As consumer resistance may become more pronounced in the future (Hearn et al. 1999), it seems desirable to develop a comprehensible understanding of consumers happiness away for the market logic for which happiness comes from consumption.

In this study, a model representing the effect of financial detachment on happiness is developed and tested. Evidence regarding the indirect impact of social responsibility and spiritual-reflection on happiness is also provided.

The paper considers two different samples. The first study relates to developing a measure for financial detachment and spiritual-Reflection. For this study, data were collected via questionnaire from two business classes at the Midwestern University of a total of 101 students aged from 19 to 42 years of age with 54 percent below 21 years of age. [Questionnaires were distributed at the end of an international marketing class and at the end of a retailing marketing class. Each class had a similar distribution of age and gender. All the 101 questionnaires were used in the study.]

The second sample was used to confirm the reliability and validity of financial detachment and spiritual-Reflection measures. This sample was also used to test the relationship between financial detachment and happiness. For this second sample, the four scales measuring financial detachment, spiritual-Reflection, socially responsible consumption (Antil 1984; Antil and Bennett 1979), and happiness were included within a survey sent to 300 respondents living in a Midwestern State. [Of the 266 respondents who returned the survey, only 261 completed the four scales without missing data. Those 261 respondents aged between 25 to 89 years of age with an average of 56 years old and represented 41% of males. The income and education distribution within the sample of characteristic of the Midwestern State selected for the study, 50% of the respondent have an income below $44,000 and some college education. None of the scales used in the study were correlated with income level, age or religious preference. The distribution of the data collected from the 261 respondents did not exhibit skewness or kurtosis distribution.]

The model fit for each measure was estimated using structural equation modeling approach with AMOS software. The maximum likelihood method (ML) was employed because of its superiority to the generalized least squares estimation method at sample size 261 (>250) (Bentler 1990). The Chi-Square of 52.269 with 0.386 probability of fit indicates that the model demonstrates a good fit. Moreover, it reports a Goodness of Fit Index of 0.996, a CFI of 0.991, a Tucker-Lewis Index of 0.989, which are all above the 0.90 recommended for a good fit (Bentler 1990). This model reflects an RMSEA of 0.013, which indicates a perfect model fit (Browne and Cudeck 1993). Regarding the largest sample size for which one could accept our model, Helter 0.05 index reports 336, which is above 200 for a good fit. Finally, this model reports the information theoretic as follow AIC (108.269)<BCC (111.217)<CAIC (236.076)<BIC (277.653).

All three hypotheses were supported, as each p value related to each hypothesized direct effect was lower than 0.05 and therefore significant (Kaplan 2000). Responsible social behavior and spiritual reflection were positively correlated to financial detachment (r=.222 and .470), and financial detachment was positively correlated to happiness (r=.234). Moreover, all indirect effects were also supported. Spiritual-Reflection had a positive effect on Happiness through Financial Detachment (SE=0.06, t value=1.833, and p-value=0.033). Responsible Consumption Behavior had a positive effect on happiness through Financial Detachment (SE=0.05, t value=2.08, and p-value=0.019).

Understanding how non-materialistic aspects of life such as spiritual-reflection and social responsibility impact financial detachment and happiness has important implications for consumer behavior studies and the understanding of post-materialistic values. Academics researchers in cultural and social sciences are increasingly questioning the relation between material possession and happiness, highlighting the need to understand postmaterial values. Under postmaterialistic values, the pursuit of happiness relates cultivating a sense of enjoyment in everyday life, developing healthy relationships and communities and material simplicity (Dekker and Halman 2003; Hunter 2000; Inglehart 1997; Inglehart et al. 1998; McIntosh 1998; McLeod et al. 1998). The resent model supports that spiritual-reflection and social responsibility are impacts one’s attitude toward money, which in turn affect one’s happiness.

Such statement should be tested in other studies using a wider sample. Other studies may employ diverse empirical methods such as experiments or surveys, multimethod multitrait designs, as well as constructs based on ecological awareness.

REFERENCES

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Antil, J. A. and P. D. Bennett (1979), "Construction and Validation of a Scale to Measure Socially Responsible Consumption Behavior," in The Consumer Society, K. H. Henion II and T. C. Kinnear, Eds. Chicago: The American Association.

Belk, Russell (1995), "Materialism: Trait Aspects of Living in the Material World," Journal of Consumer Research, 12, 265-80.

Bentler, P. M. (1990), "Comparative fit indexes in structural models," Psychological Bulletin, 107, 238-46.

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Cherrier, Helene (2002), "Drifting Away from Excessive Consumption, Trait Aspects of Voluntary Simplicity," Asia Pacific Advances of Consumer Research, V, 280-81.

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Authors

Helene Cherrier, University of Westminster, UK



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6 | 2005



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