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The Economic Crisis Has Not Affected Europeans' Values

The 2008-2009 financial crisis could have affected people's values; however, researchers have not yet found any such changes in Europe. A study by Maksim Rudnev and Vladimir Magun of the HSE's Laboratory for Comparative Studies in Mass Consciousness and Peter Schmidt, former head of the HSE's Laboratory for Socio-Cultural Research, suggests that the recent financial crisis may have a delayed effect on society's values

In their study 'Stability of the Europeans' Value Typology', Maksim Rudnev, Vladimir Magun, and Peter Schmidt tested the value typology obtained by using the Schwartz instrument (PVQ) on data from the fourth wave of the European Values ​​Survey (ESS, 2008) in 29 countries.

Earlier research indicated that the simultaneous importance of values such as openness to change and concern for others is more common in economically advanced societies, while people in less advanced countries are more likely to choose between a social focus, i.e. the values of conservatism and concern for others, and a personal focus, i.e. the values of openness and self-enhancement.

In order to test the stability of value orientations in European countries, including during times of crisis, the researchers compared the 2008 survey data with the more recent 2010 and 2012 data. In total, they used the findings from 32 countries, with more than 155,467 respondents.

Self-direction vs. Security

According to the authors, values ​​differ by the type of goal they express. The central premise of Schwartz' theory is that continuity of the values system and stability of relationships between values are observed in most cultures and can be represented by a value circle separated into sectors, where each sector designates a value.

The Schwartz value scale includes values ​​such as:

  • universalism (protection for the welfare of all people and for nature);
  • benevolence (preserving the welfare of those with whom one is in frequent personal contact);
  • achievement (focus on personal success);
  • power (authority and wealth);
  • hedonism (pleasure and sensuous gratification);
  • stimulation (novelty-seeking);
  • self-direction (independent thought and action, creativity).

Adjacent values in the circle share the same motivational emphases and are, therefore, compatible, while values that are further apart are less compatible or even conflicting.

Graph 1. Schwarz' Value Circle

The ESS respondents were provided with 21 descriptions of people (value portraits) and asked to rank them on a 6-point scale from 'very much like me' (6) to 'not like me at all' (1).

Stable Values

Rudnev, Magun, and Schmidt identified five value classes. The first class is associated with growth values, and this group of respondents emphasized the importance of openness to change and self-transcendence, while the other four classes are in a way opposed to these growth values. The study also found that the number of people in the other four value classes was higher in less economically advanced countries.

However, each country has a share of every value class. One of the study's hypotheses was that the proportion of value classes in European countries remains fairly consistent, based on the data from the 4th, 5th, and 6th ESS rounds which cover the years 2008-2012 corresponding to the recent financial crisis. This hypothesis was confirmed. Value transformations tend to occur only in exceptionally challenging circumstances, such as as trauma, war, or migration. Apparently, the 2008-2009 financial crisis did not affect the Europeans to an extent sufficient to cause a change of values. However, change may take more time to manifest. "Perhaps values transformation takes longer, and we may witness a delayed effect of the crisis some time in the future," the researchers suggest.

 

Author: Marina Selina, October 13, 2014