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Cohort Change, Diffusion, and Support for Environmental Spending in the United States

Fred C. Pampel and Lori M. Hunter
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 118, No. 2 (September 2012), pp. 420-448
DOI: 10.1086/666506
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/666506
Page Count: 29
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Cohort Change, Diffusion, and Support for Environmental Spending in the United States
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Abstract

Long-standing debates over the effect of socioeconomic status (SES) on environmental concern contrast postmaterialist and affluence arguments, suggesting a positive relationship in high-income nations, with counterarguments for a negative or near zero relationship. A diffusion-of-innovations approach adapts parts of both arguments and predicts initial adoption of proenvironmental views by high-SES groups; however, environmentalism diffuses over time to other SES groups, weakening the association. This argument is tested with General Social Survey data (1973–2008) across 83 cohorts, whose attitudes before, during, and after the emergence of environmentalism identify long-term changes in environmental concern. Multilevel age, period, and cohort models support diffusion arguments by demonstrating that the effects across cohorts of education, income, and occupational prestige first strengthen, then weaken. This finding suggests that diffusion of environmental concern first produces positive relationships consistent with postmaterialism arguments and later produces null or negative relationships consistent with global environmentalism arguments.

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