Cohort change and the diffusion of environmental concern: A cross-national analysis

Raphael J. Nawrotzki, Fred C. Pampel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


This study explores value change across cohorts for a multinational population sample. Employing a diffusion-of-innovations approach, we combine competing theories predicting the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and environmentalism: post-materialism and affluence theories, and global environmentalism theory. The diffusion argument suggests that high-SES groups first adopt pro-environmental views, but as time passes by, environmentalism diffuses to lower-SES groups. We test the diffusion argument using a sample of 18 countries for two waves (years 1993 and 2000) from the International Social Survey Project. Cross-classified multilevel modeling allows us to identify a nonlinear interaction between cohort and education, our core measure of SES, in predicting environmental concern, while controlling for age and period. We find support for the diffusion argument and demonstrate that the positive effect of education on environmental concern first increases among older cohorts and then starts to level off until a bend point is reached for individuals born around 1940 and becomes progressively weaker for younger cohorts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalPopulation and Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This project received funding and administrative support from the University of Colorado Population Center (NICHD R21 HD051146). Special thanks to five anonymous reviewers for insightful comments and helpful suggestions on earlier drafts of this manuscript. We also thank Nancy D. Mann for her careful editing.


  • Affluence hypothesis
  • Cohort change
  • Diffusion
  • Environmental concern
  • ISSP
  • Multilevel
  • Post-materialist hypothesis


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