People Who Grow Up Poor More Likely To Spend During Recession
Our childhood circumstances can greatly affect how we deal with financial duress during adulthood, according to new research. A study from the University of Minnesota shows that people who grow up in poverty are likely to spend whatever cash they have, while those from affluent families respond to recession by saving their money. But the study, published in the journal Psychological Science, also indicates it may sometimes be wise to spend impulsively when money is tight.
Researchers conducted experiments in which they asked participants to consider an economic recession and complete tasks related to impulsive decision-making. Those who came from poorer backgrounds responded to recession with riskier financial behaviors and were more likely to purchase luxury goods. Participants who grew up in wealthy homes showed less impulsive behaviors and were less likely to purchase luxury goods.
In another experiment, researchers found physical evidence that different financial backgrounds result in different stress responses. They discovered variances in oxidative stress detected in urine, an indicator of cellular damage that can be accelerated by environmental stressors such as poverty.
“These experiments show that our early childhood environment can program our life history strategy for the rest of our lives,” said Vladas Griskevicius, a professor at Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. “During good times, the tendencies associated with fast versus slow strategies can be dormant, but they emerge under duress.”
Griskevicus explains that such tendencies can influence future responses in automatic and non-deliberative ways, even at a physiological level. But the researchers insist that neither a “fast” nor a “slow” strategy is necessarily good or bad.
“Lots of research assumes that delay of gratification is always a good thing, but the current research suggests that it's sometimes smart to be impulsive,” the professor said. “For people who expect to live in a harsh and unpredictable environment, it's more adaptive to be impulsive and maximize present resources and opportunities.”
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