“Money Worlds” and Wellbeing: An Empirical Test of Tatzel's Model of Consumption

“Money Worlds” and Wellbeing: An Empirical Test of Tatzel's Model of Consumption

Leisa Reinecke Flynn (University of Southern Mississippi, USA), Ronald Earl Goldsmith (Florida State University, USA) and Michael Brusco (Florida State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6120-0.ch005
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Tatzel proposed a theory of money worlds and wellbeing comprised of four prototypical consumer patterns based on whether consumers are high/low on materialism and simultaneously tight or loose with money. Tatzel proposes that the four prototypes (value-seekers, non-spenders, big-spenders, and experiencers) differ strikingly along many values, attitudes, and behaviors. This study uses data from 1,016 U.S. student consumers to test empirically the typology and differences. A cluster analysis confirmed that a four-cluster solution best represented the data, supporting Tatzel's model. Subsequent ANOVAs showed that two of the four groups differed predictably in the hypothesized directions. Significant differences between big-spenders and non-spenders appeared in levels of price sensitivity, status consumption, generosity, brand engagement, worry about debt, and spending. The other two groups, value-seekers and experiencers, fell between them. The findings partially confirm Tatzel's theory and suggest that “money worlds” are one way of conceptualizing consumer culture.
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In 2002 and 2003, Miriam Tatzel published a pair of papers that lay out a matrix for classifying consumers by their levels of materialism and their orientation towards spending money. Tatzel (2002, p. 105) found a contradiction in the literature in that “people who are loose with money are happier than people who are tight with money; that materialists are loose with money; and that on-materialists are happier than materialists.” She designed her theoretical classification system to resolve that contradiction by delineating four different “ideal types” of consumers, thereby explaining materialistic behavior in the marketplace. As of March 28, 2018, her two articles have been cited more than 300 times as reported by Google Scholar, indicating some interest in her proposals.

A number of researchers have used Tatzel’s ideas to examine the role of materialism in such areas as the importance of brand names in purchase decisions (Flynn, Goldsmith, & Pollitte, 2016; Liao & Wang, 2009; Ostrovskaya & Sarabia-Sánchez, 2013; Podoshen & Andrzejewski, 2012) and the relationship between well-being and materialism (Handa & Khare, 2013). These questions appear to be important aspects of any view of consumer culture; namely, how do predilections toward spending and desire for material goods interact to shape broad patterns of consumer behavior? In the end, however attractive a theory may appear, its ultimate value is dependent on its conceptual soundness; unfortunately, validity tests are few and far between. Only three studies report actual operationalizations and tests of Tatzel’s theoretical model (Pham, Yap, & Dowling, 2012; Tatzel, 2014; Troisi, Christopher, & Marek, 2006). None of these studies, however, have attempted to empirically confirm the four hypothesized consumer archetypes.

The present study builds on the three existing operationalizations, using a more rigorous methodology, in an attempt to provide a more definitive confirmation of Tatzel’s Materialism, Money Orientation matrix. The study uses established scales, cluster analysis, and a large sample of U.S. college students to see if the model, as predicted, differentiates types of consumers who vary in their materialistic and spending orientations. Consequently, the first objective of the study is to attempt to reproduce empirically the matrix proposed by Tatzel (2002), rather than just forming groups a priori as in earlier studies. This evidence could provide important additional support for the theoretical distinctions Tatzel proposes. The second objective is to compare the four groups of consumers comprising the matrix, using a set of criteria different from earlier studies, in order to determine if the four categories of consumers differ in the theoretically predicted ways. This evidence should further support the meaningfulness of the distinctions among the groups, thus providing a broader basis for better-targeted marketing efforts by emphasizing the distinctive marketplace behaviors of each group.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Typology: A classification of individuals into mutually exclusive groups.

Generosity: Often regarded as a social virtue and referring to the giving of time, money, or possessions to others with no expectation of reciprocity.

Brand Engagement in Self-Concept: A consumer trait describing how important brands and brand images are to how consumers view their own identities; the symbolic value of the brand.

Cluster Analysis: A statistical procedure that sorts data into groups based on the similarities among the variables.

Wellbeing: The various aspects of life related to quality of life, which can range from positive to negative.

Price Sensitivity: A consumer trait describing how strongly consumers react to high or low prices and to price changes.

Tatzel: Miriam Tatzel is a psychologist who developed the theory of “money worlds” describing subtle differences in spending patterns that define four unique groups of consumers.

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