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Image: Lisa Kiang.If kids won a million dollars…
7 spending preferences of young consumers

By Lisa Kiang, Associate Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University

At my family’s recent Thanksgiving gathering, my 11-year old niece proclaimed her goal to:

"Buy a HUGE that the homeless can live there."

In our latest research, "If Children Won Lotteries: Materialism, Gratitude, and Imaginary Windfall Spending", published by Emerald Group Publishing, we reveal how 7 to 14 year olds imagined they would spend a large amount of money.

Our primary research question was to find out how much materialism and gratitude affect children’s spending preferences.

Marketing strategies in the USA have commonly pegged children as consumers with great spending power, both directly as well as indirectly by shaping their family’s spending behaviours.

However, our study revealed the following key findings:

  1. Children’s first spending impulse is not to spend most of their money on buying things for themselves.

  2. Children as young as seven preferred to save money for later, which shows that they have the ability to self-regulate and delay gratification.

  3. Children are just as likely to use their money to give to charity or buy gifts for other people as they are to buy things for themselves.

  4. Materialism was significantly associated with saving money

  5. Gratitude was related to more prosocial spending by way of donating to charity

  6. There were no age or gender differences in spending preferences or materialism.

  7. Older children and girls showed a higher gratitude than younger children and boys.

You can read more about these findings in: