New research finds a link between the rise in individualism and the rise in white-collar employment. The researchers believe the linkage is the change in status that comes with a transition from blue-collar to white-collar work. That implies a causation running from the growth of white-collar employment in the economy to individualism.
“We were surprised that only one of the six tested cultural psychological theories was any good for statistically predicting changes in US individualism over time,” says Grossmann. “The only theoretical claim that we found systematic support for is the one suggesting that the rise in individualism is due to societal changes in social class, from blue collar to white collar occupations.”
The researchers note that these data do not allow them to draw a conclusive causal link between occupational status and individualism, but they do suggest that the other factors examined were unlikely to account for rising individualism.
Contrary to popular notions, the research indicates that increasing individualism is not a recent phenomenon.
“The data show that changes in individualism were present way before the Generation X and the Millennium generation, indicating that the magnitude of change in individualism was comparable in the late 19th and early 20th century as it is now,” says Grossmann. “This insight puts some of the pop-science claims about current youth in a historical perspective: Yes, current youth are different from older generations, but this seems to be a consistent phenomenon over time.”
Posted by John B. Chilton