Living in rich, urban areas fuels material desires

New York, Feb 14 (IANS) Do you often feel you are relatively deprived, less well-off than those around you and have an urge to splurge while you don't have that moolah? It is time to look for another neighbourhood.

Individuals who live in wealthy neighbourhoods are more likely to have materialistic values and poor spending habits, shows new research.

This is frequent among those who are young, living in urban areas and relatively poor compared with their neighbours.

If someone is bombarded with images or reminders of wealth, such as an abundance of investment banks nearby or neighbours driving luxury cars, they are likelier to feel a need to spend money they may not have - to project an image of wealth they don't actually possess - say researchers from San Francisco State University.

"People who live in more affluent areas are vulnerable to this implicit social comparison, where you start to see other people spending a lot of money," said Ryan Howell, associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University.

Because you feel the need to live up to that standard, you end up impulsively buying material items, even though they do not actually make you happier, he added.

Researchers determined a neighbourhood's socio-economic status by looking at its per-capita income and poverty rate as well as the number of financial institutions present.

That information was compared with survey data measuring participants' materialistic values, views about money and spending, and savings habits.

Researchers found residents of wealthier neighbourhoods were likelier to be materialistic, spend compulsively and manage their money poorly than those living in less well-off areas.

The effect was seen especially in younger people who tend to be more materialistic in urban areas.

Regardless of how much someone is worth in general, the richer their neighbourhood, the more likely they are to be materialistic, observed Jia Wei Zhang, lead author and graduate student at University of California, Berkeley.

The next step is to explore whether there are ways to counter a neighbourhood's effect on an individual's materialistic values, said the research published in Journal of Consumer Culture.

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date: Feb 14, 2014 23:30:20 IST