Social Indicators Research

, Volume 110, Issue 1, pp 349–366 | Cite as

Is Materialism All That Bad? Effects on Satisfaction with Material Life, Life Satisfaction, and Economic Motivation

  • M. Joseph SirgyEmail author
  • Eda Gurel-Atay
  • Dave Webb
  • Muris Cicic
  • Melika Husic-Mehmedovic
  • Ahmet Ekici
  • Andreas Herrmann
  • Ibrahim Hegazy
  • Dong-Jin Lee
  • J. S. Johar


The literature in economic psychology and quality-of-life studies alludes to a negative relationship between materialism and life satisfaction. In contrast, the macroeconomic literature implies a positive relationship between material consumption and economic growth. That is, materialism may be both good and bad. We develop a model that reconciles these two contrasting viewpoints by asserting that materialism may lead to life dissatisfaction when materialistic people evaluate their standard of living using fantasy-based expectations (e.g., ideal expectations), which increases the likelihood that they would evaluate their standard of living negatively. In turn, dissatisfaction with standard of living increases the likelihood that they would evaluate their life negatively. However, materialistic people who evaluate their standard of living using reality-based expectations (e.g., ability expectations) are likely to feel more economically motivated than their non-materialistic counterparts, and this economic motivation is likely to contribute significantly and positively to life satisfaction. Survey data were collected from seven major cities each in a different country (Australia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Germany, Egypt, Korea, Turkey, and the USA) using a probability sample (cluster sampling method involving income stratification). The results provide support for the model. The economic public policy implications concerning how people evaluate their standard of living using ability-based expectations are discussed in the context of the ideals of meritocracy.


Materialism Evaluation of standard of living Satisfaction with material life Economic motivation Life satisfaction Quality of life Meritocracy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Joseph Sirgy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eda Gurel-Atay
    • 2
  • Dave Webb
    • 3
  • Muris Cicic
    • 4
  • Melika Husic-Mehmedovic
    • 4
  • Ahmet Ekici
    • 5
  • Andreas Herrmann
    • 6
  • Ibrahim Hegazy
    • 7
  • Dong-Jin Lee
    • 8
  • J. S. Johar
    • 9
  1. 1.Department of Marketing, Pamplin College of BusinessVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of Marketing, Lundquist College of BusinessUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA
  3. 3.Business SchoolUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Marketing, School of Economics and BusinessUniversity of SarajevoSarajevoBosnia-Herzegovina
  5. 5.Faculty of Business AdministrationBilkent UniversityBilkent, AnkaraTurkey
  6. 6.Department of Marketing, Audi Lab for Market ResearchSt. Gallen UniversitySt. GallenSwitzerland
  7. 7.Department of MarketingAmerican University in CairoCairoEgypt
  8. 8.Department of MarketingYonsei UniversitySeoulKorea
  9. 9.Department of MarketingCalifornia State University at San BernardinoSan BernardinoUSA

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