Youth Express More Interest in Helping Others and the Environment


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Teens: Making Money is Still Important

Making money was rated as important. Image by AMagill.

Making money is still important for today’s teens. Image by AMagill.

Contrary to what the researchers expected, while students expressed interest in helping others and saving the environment, they continued to rate the importance of having a ‘‘chance to earn a good deal of money” higher than ever.

Yet owning bling was considered less important after the recession.

The authors report students rated “expensive material items (such as new cars and vacation homes) as important between the 1970s and the prerecession period, but then rated them as significantly less important during the recession years.”

Rising Environmentalism

Post-recession, student rated “saving energy” and “using bikes or mass transit” as more important.

Yet, since the economy was worse, Dr. Twenge admitted to Decoded Science, “When money is tight people are more willing to turn down the heat in their house and drive less, both of which also save energy. So that, rather than true value change, could be driving the increased action to save energy.”

Positive Self-views Intact

Students who are more cognizant of others might be expected to brag a bit less about themselves.  Not so, according to the research findings.  Students opinions of their own intelligence and school ability had risen prior to the Great Recession and remained high afterwards.

Dr. Twenge told Decoded Science, “I thought it was interesting that the recession has apparently created more concern for others, but has left in place very positive self-views and some aspects of materialism. We’re living in a time when youth are thinking about social issues more, but are still very self-focused. It’s an intriguing combination.”

Somewhat materialistic youth with high self-esteem and bigger hearts are entering the adult world.  Today’s students challenge us to both address social problems and build self-esteem.


Park, H., Twenge, J. and Greenfield, P.  The Great Recession : Implications for Adolescent Values and Behavior.

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