Emory University, Goizueta Business School

Emory University, Goizueta Business School Emory University, Goizueta Business School

1300 Clifton Road, Atlanta, 30322, GA, US

The role of the economy on individualism

The role of the economy on individualism 2018-07-30
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Emily Bianchi

Past work has shown that as countries become wealthier, people often become more individualistic. In new research, Emily Bianchi, assistant professor of organization & management, takes the investigation a step further and finds that even subtle fluctuations in the economy are associated with changes in individualism. She finds that during good economic times, Americans are more likely to seek out ways to signal their uniqueness and individuality. For instance, during boom times, Americans tend to give their children more uncommon names and are more likely to prize autonomy and independence in child-rearing. They are also more likely to favor music featuring self-oriented lyrics. Conversely, during recessions, Americans tend to focus more on fitting in and tend to give their children more common names, listen to more relationally oriented music, and encourage their children to get along with others. Additionally, Bianchi discovered that recessions engender uncertainty, which, in turn, decreases individualism and encourages interdependence. The study results indicated that the “link between wealth and individualism is driven not only by differences in how people live, work, and learn but also by their sense of the predictability, orderliness, and certainty of the surrounding environment.”


American individualism rises and falls with the economy: Cross-temporal evidence that individualism declines when the economy falters.

Past work has shown that economic growth often engenders greater individualism. Yet much of this work charts changes in wealth and individualism over long periods of time, making it unclear whether rising individualism is primarily driven by wealth or by the social and generational changes that often accompany large-scale economic transformations. This article explores whether individualism is sensitive to more transient macroeconomic fluctuations, even in the absence of transformative social changes or generational turnover.