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CHAPTER 3 Sources of Value Change I. THE MULTI-FACETED EFFECTS OF EDUCATION W E will not be certain whether inter-generational value change is taking place until we have measured the value preferences of given individuals over a period of many years. In the meantime, indirect evidence strongly suggests that inter-generational change is taking place. As we saw in the previous chapter, there are striking differences in the value priorities expressed by different age groups; and the age group pattern found in a given country seems to reflect that country's history. We can test the question in another way. The need-satisfaction hypothesis implies that the distribution of value types will show two basic patterns. The first (just examined) is that younger cohorts tend to be less Materialist than older ones. But if economic changes are one of the key factors contributing to value change, we should also find substantial variation in the distribution of value types within each age cohort. The overall economic level in these countries has risen markedly, but not everyone has shared equally. If our hypothesis is accurate, the more prosperous members of a given age group should be more Post-Materialist than the less prosperous ones. More specifically, those who were economically secure during their formative years will be likelier to have Post-Materialist value priorities. It is not easy to determine how economically secure someone was during his formative years; for many of our respondents, the relevant events took place thirty or forty years ago. It is fairly easy to get an indication of one's relative economic level today, however. People in non-manual occupations generally earn more than manual workers; and farmers tend to earn even less than industrial workers. Since people with middle-class jobs tend to come from middle-class family backgrounds, one's present status is also a rough indicator of economic standing during one's pre-adult years. But the relationship is far from perfect: perhaps a third of Sources of Value Change — 73 our respondents have experienced either upward or downward inter-generational social mobility.1 Nevertheless, we would expect middle-class respondents to be most Post-Materialist, workingclass respondents less so, and respondents from farm families least so. Table 3-1 tests this prediction, using data from our 1970 and 1971 surveys (and, therefore, our original four-item values index). The prediction is borne out. In each of the seven countries, middleclass respondents show the lowest proportion of Materialists and the highest proportion of Post-Materialists.2 The differences are not particularly large; in the British case, they are very small indeed. The British farm population is so small that it is not separately identified in our data; nor is there much difference between the British middle class as a whole and the working class as a whole. Only when we distinguish between skilled and unskilled workers do we find appreciable value differences for Britain. But modest though they are, the differences are in the expected direction even in Britain. And in all of the other countries, our expectations are confirmed in a modest but consistent way. Our 1973 surveys obtained data on family income. This variable also shows a weak but consistent relationship with value type: those with higher incomes are more likely to be Post-Materialists. There is an average difference of about 10 percentage points between the lowest income group and the highest. But the variables we have just examined are indicators of one's present economic status, and not necessarily of the variable in which we are really interested—which might be called "formative affluence." Do we have a more accurate measure of what we really want to know? Yes. The respondent's level of education almost certainly gives a more accurate indication of how well-off his family was when he was growing up. For most people, one's education was completed during youth or even in late childhood. This is particularly true in Europe, where only a minority of the public have attained a secondary or higher education: the great majority of those who have done so were raised in middle-class homes; most 1 Our 1971 data indicate inter-generational social mobility rates of about 25 percent for Belgium, France and The Netherlands. The rates for the other countries seem to be somewhat higher. Some statistics on social mobility are cited in Chapter 7. 2 For further evidence concerning the linkage between higher economic level and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400869589
MARC Record
OCLC
933516258
Pages
496
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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