The Environmentalist

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 133–144 | Cite as

A cross-national perspective on youth environmental attitudes

  • Jelle Boeve-de Pauw
  • Peter Van Petegem


The environmental attitudes of young people are a growing topic of interest for social scientists. Most research that aims to explain differences in (youth) environmental attitudes focuses on the individual as the level of measurement. There is, however, a growing body of evidence that illustrates that the context within which that individual operates can contribute to their environmental attitudes. Based on the PISA 2006 data, and while controlling for individual characteristics, we tested Inglehart’s ‘objective problems, subjective values’ hypothesis. This hypothesis divides the contextual influences on environmental attitudes into (1) objective problems in the individual’s natural environment and (2) subjective values linked to post-materialistic goals in life. We analyzed both the individual and the country level simultaneously, controlling for compositional effects, by performing a multilevel analysis on the 2006 PISA data for youth environmental attitudes (398,750 15 year olds from 56 countries). At the individual level, the results are generally consistent with the literature; at the contextual level, the stage of development of a country (as a proxy for post-materialistic values) is shown to be unrelated to environmental attitudes. Both natural riches of a country and its environmental problems are shown to positively influence the environmental attitudes of that country’s youth. These results are discussed in relation to the ‘objective problems, subjective values’ hypothesis. The results also point towards the necessity of simultaneously assessing the effect of individual- and contextual-level characteristics on environmental attitudes.


Cross-national research Environmental attitudes Multilevel analysis Natural environment Youth 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Education and Information SciencesUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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