Original Research Reports

Development and Validation of the American Dream Scale: Assessing the Petty Bourgeois Mentality

Glenn Gamst*a, Roy Kwonb, Lawrence S. Meyersc


The present research developed and validated an instrument, the American Dream Scale (ADS), to measure a small business orientation conceptualized as petty bourgeois mentality. The initial exploratory study, using principal components analysis with promax rotation, was performed on the data from a convenience sample of 349 university students. A total of 17 items of the original 45 prototype items emerged from the analysis to comprise the ADS inventory that represented two factors named Creative Work Potential and Be My Own Boss. A second independent convenience sample of 306 university students provided data for a confirmatory factor analysis supporting the factor structure and an evaluation of a structural model predicting ADS. A third independent convenience sample of 502 US adults provided data for an additional confirmatory factor analysis again supporting the factor structure as well as providing convergent validity evidence to support use of the scale. Implications for future research are discussed in the context of how the ADS may help to elucidate fundamental petty bourgeois attitudes among various strata in the US working class.

Keywords: social class, small business, entrepreneurial, petty bourgeois, political psychology, capitalism, Marxism

Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2018, Vol. 6(2), doi:10.5964/jspp.v6i2.743

Received: 2016-12-06. Accepted: 2018-06-15. Published (VoR): 2018-09-28.

Handling Editor: Laura Taylor, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom

*Corresponding author at: Psychology, University of La Verne, 1950 Third Street, La Verne, CA 91750, USA. E-mail: ggamst@laverne.edu

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

The present study reports the development and validation of the American Dream Scale (ADS) as a measure of the small business orientation (or petty bourgeois mentality) of American university students. This instrument purports to measure work-related self-perceptions of personal abilities, motivations, and attitudes that are driven by one’s entrepreneurial orientations, perceptions of individualism and collectivism, personal aspirations, and achievement and autonomy motivations. Conceptually, the ADS addresses two fundamental values associated with an individual’s small business outlook and aspirations, or petty bourgeois mentality; the first entails the actualizing of an individual’s self-perceived work-related creativity and unique personal attributes and the second represents the aspiration or desire of individuals to own or control their own means of production by working for themselves rather than someone else. The ADS development goal is to capture these sentiments and determine to what extent this orientation manifests itself among working people who do not own their own means of production (i.e., who are wage and salary workers). We suggest that people’s relationship to the means of production (e.g., the factories, banks, tools of production) determines or influences their outlook on life and attitudes about work. As Marx (1857-1858/1976) stated:

In the social production of their existence, men [sic] enter into definite, necessary relations, which are independent of their will, namely, relations of production corresponding to a determinate stage of development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation on which there arises a legal and political superstructure and to which there correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life-process in general. It is not the consciousness of men [sic] that determines their being, but on the contrary, it is their social being that determines their consciousness (p. 3).

Humans transform the world around them to meet their particular needs. The way a society is organized to carry out these transformative processes is referred to as its mode of production (Engels, 1880/1970). The mode of production within society has two main features: the forces of production and the relations of production (Engels, 1880/1970). On the one hand, forces of production include objective forces such as equipment, machinery, land, buildings, mines, and subjective forces such as culture, science, art, and human effort. On the other hand, the relations of production are what determine how productive efforts are organized. Perhaps most importantly, modern capitalist societies are organized around a class structure with an identifiable set of social constructs that determines the relations of production in the national economy.

While a number of conceptualizations of class structure have been offered (a review of which is beyond the scope of the present study but see Spector, 1995; Weil, 1995; Wright, 1980), we will adhere to the position that focuses on the polarization of the two fundamental classes within capitalist societies, the bourgeoisie (or capitalist class) and the proletariat (or working class). This approach has sometimes been referred to as a “simple polarization” schema of class structure (Wright, 1980). Perhaps the best current exemplar of this formulation can be found in Loren’s (1977) class analysis of the United States. Loren (1977) defined classes “as groups of people which, owing to their different relations to the means of production, differ in relation to the surplus labor of society, generally either providing it to another group, or disposing of the surplus labor of another group, or disposing only of its own surplus labor” (p. 9). Using 1970 US Census data, Loren (1977) estimated the US class structure to be polarized among a large working class majority of 90%, a dwindling petty producer or petty bourgeois (French words for small business persons) class of 8%, and a small but dominant capitalist class of 2%. Using a modification of Loren’s (1977) US class structural analysis, Gamst and Kwon (2015) reported continued longitudinal polarization with approximately 92% working class, 6% petty producers, and 1-2% capitalist class.

Although the proportion of petty producers has diminished drastically from the 18% of 1940 (Loren, 1977), their ideological class influence continues to exert considerable influence on working class values, aspirations, and attitudes. Indeed, some note that the idea of the “American Dream” itself is embodied and reproduced by the ideals of the petty producer or petty bourgeois (Davis, 1999). This is accomplished, in part, through the dissemination of at least four social relations undergirding petty bourgeois consciousness (Loren, 1977). These social relations that foster a petty bourgeois outlook include (a) wages, where a person relates income (wages and salaries) to individual effort; (b) the private family, where both adults and children view social relationships as a function of individual capacities, endowments, and economic generational transmission; (c) authority relations, such as managerial and supervisory authority in bureaucratic capitalist hierarchies which encourage careerism, merit-seeking, favoritism, special perquisites and privileges, which ultimately reinforce individualism; and (d) mental labor, as opposed to manual labor, which lends itself to working alone, producing an individual product (i.e., report, article, book, lecture, or performance), where the resulting finished product embodies the intellectual’s personal self-schema and sense of individuality.

The concept of class or social class has a complicated history in the social sciences, and continues to be neglected in the field of psychology (Reimers & Stabb, 2015). Much of the early discussion revolved around the issue of objective versus subjective assessment of class. Objective class assessment typically involves combinations of “objective” indicators of social class such as income, occupation, and education (e.g., Goyder, 1975; Jackman & Jackman, 1973; Ostrove, Adler, Kuppermann, & Washington, 2000), whereas subjective class assessment involves respondents’ self-perceptions of their perceived class position or status (e.g., Centers, 1949; Davis & Robinson, 1988; Ekehammar, Sidanius, & Nilsson, 1987; Hodge & Treiman, 1968; Kluegel, Singleton, & Starnes, 1977).

Recent work within the field of psychology has continued this objective (e.g., Stephens, Markus, & Phillips, 2014) versus subjective (e.g., Liu, Alt, & Pittsinger, 2013) class operational chasm (see also, Keefer, Goode, & Van Berkel, 2015). The present study’s incorporation of class categories (working class, petty producer, capitalist class) that are empirically derived from an individual’s relationship to the means of production and whether or not they produce surplus product sidesteps the subjective-objective dilemma of intuiting the class affiliation of an individual. Such a tripartite or simple polarization view of US class structure is useful in furthering our understanding of the petty bourgeois mentality because the petty producer class, while diminishing in absolute numbers in present capitalist society, has had a massive ideological and historical impact (well beyond its current US population representation) on the ideological outlook of the working class majority. Departing from discussions of objective and subjective social class and adopting a simple polarization viewpoint of US class structure allows us to focus on the dwindling petty producer class and its ideological influence on the US working class.

Related to the class operational contradiction is the lack of psychology literature related to our current capitalist economic system. For example, Kasser, Cohn, Kanner, and Ryan (2007) have reported that over a 119-year period (1887-2006) only 816 articles (or about seven articles per year) made a direct link between capitalism and psychology. Much of this work examines issues of income inequality (Domhoff, 2011), colonialism and oppression (Hilton, 2011), social justice (Albee, 1977), ecological sustainability (Athanasiou, 1996), profit (Bakan, 2004), materialism/consumerism (Burroughs & Rindfleisch, 2002; Kasser, 2002a), racism (Chua, 2004), classism (Smith, 2008), overwork (Robinson, 2003), and autonomy Kasser (2011). None of this work explains how individuals’ attitudes, values, and behaviors are influenced by their relationship to the means of production (i.e., their class relationship).

The present study describes the development of a scale that assesses an individual’s small business or petty bourgeois orientation as it relates to work-related issues. We do this across three studies. In Study 1, we developed the ADS following established scale development (Clark & Watson, 1995; Dawis, 1987; DeVellis, 2011; Gamst, Meyers, Burke, & Guarino, 2015) and validation procedures (Meyers, Gamst, & Guarino, 2013, 2017; Reise, Waller, & Comrey, 2000; Worthington & Whittaker, 2005). That is, a comprehensive literature review and focus groups produced a 45-item ADS prototype, with data analysis based on a convenience sample of 349 student participants resulting in a reduced 17-item scale with a two-factor structure.

In Study 2, we use the 17-item ADS developed in the previous study to conduct a confirmatory factor analysis to evaluate the two-factor structure using an independent convenience sample of 306 students. Furthermore, we also developed an exploratory model in which the relation between Social Ambition, a latent variable composed of the three extrinsic goal orientation subscales (financial success, social recognition, appealing appearance) of the Aspiration Index (Kasser & Ryan, 1993, 1996) and the Personality Research Form (PRF) Autonomy Scale (Jackson, 1984), and the 17-item ADS was mediated by Rugged Individualism, assessed by a latent variable of the Horizontal and Vertical Individualism subscales of the Individualism/Collectivism Scale (Triandis & Gelfand, 1998). This connection between social ambition and rugged individualism is consistent with a robust social science literature that proposes a relationship between these two constructs (e.g., Turner, Abercrombie, & Hill, 2014). The relationship between social ambition and various aspects of the ADS construct have been observed and discussed by numerous investigators (e.g., Baker, 1986; Stein, 1991). Lastly, the link between rugged individualism (hard work, achievement, autonomy) and the ADS construct facets have been discussed by a variety of authors (Cramton, 1993; Fugita & Obrien, 1991; Lenin, 1905/1972; Thorpe, 2011; Whitta, 1993).

Finally, in Study 3, we use an independent, national convenience sample of 502 adults to confirm the component structure found in the previous studies. In addition, although our main focus in this study was to replicate the component structure with a new independent non-college student sample, we also examined several potential correlates of the ADS. For convergent validity we included the PRF Achievement scale (Jackson, 1974; Steinmayr & Spinath, 2009) and Aspiration Index (Kasser & Ryan, 1993, 1996), while for discriminant validity we used the Noblesse Oblige (NO) and Social Programs (SP) scales (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994). The NO scale assesses attitudes about providing resources to the poor and unemployed members of society; similarly, the SP scale probes attitudes about increasing government programs for the poor, unemployed, and homeless. We expected either a negative correlation or a zero-order correlation between the ADS constructs and the NO and SP scales.

Toward this end, six critical constructs (individual entrepreneurial orientation, entrepreneurial passion, individualism and collectivism, aspirations, achievement motivation, and autonomy) presumed to be related to ADS are briefly reviewed.

Individual Entrepreneurial Orientation [TOP]

The construct of the entrepreneurial orientation (EO) of an organization or the types of decision-making strategies it employs when making entrepreneurial decisions and actions has been examined extensively within the strategic management literature (e.g., Covin & Slevin, 1989; Lumpkin & Dess, 1996; Rauch, Wiklund, Lumpkin, & Frese, 2009; Runyan, Droge, & Swinney, 2008). A key correlated finding has been the linkage between EO and company performance. Five organizational behaviors (innovativeness, risk-taking, being proactive, autonomy, and competitive-aggressiveness) have been linked to the EO construct (Lumpkin & Dess, 1996; Rauch et al., 2009).

Recently, investigators have explored EO among individuals (as opposed to organizations) in order to identify the personal characteristics that facilitate entrepreneurial activity engagement (Levenburg & Schwarz, 2008). Much of this research has focused on enduring personality qualities (e.g., openness, conscientiousness, stability, extraversion, need for achievement, internal locus of control) that may be related to entrepreneurial tendencies as summarized in the meta-analytic work of Zhao and Seibert (2006) and Zhao, Seibert, and Lumpkin (2010). Another independent line of research has examined individuals’ entrepreneurial attitudes (e.g., Harris & Gibson, 2008; Macko & Tyszka, 2009; Robinson, Stimpson, Huefner, & Hunt, 1991), such as personal control, innovation, self-esteem, achievement, risk-taking, creativity, and being proactive. This research has typically focused on the measurement of these attitudes and perceptions to predict future entrepreneurial intentions or aspirations.

These EO research programs have partially culminated in the recent development of an instrument that purports to measure individual entrepreneurial orientation (IEO; e.g., Bolton, 2012; Bolton & Lane, 2012) of students. Bolton and Lane (2012) using principal components analysis and a promax rotation reported three valid and reliable IEO subscales: Risk Taking (characterized by bold willingness to commit resources in uncertain environments), Innovativeness (characterized by a predisposition to creatively introduce and experiment with new products and services), and Proactiveness (characterized by a forward-looking perspective that anticipates future demand). All three subscales had a low positive correlation with both a desire to “work for myself” and “start my own venture.”

We believe that the IEO individual characteristics of willingness to take risks and being innovative and proactive will be positively related to the proposed ADS, and therefore, a strong positive correlation is expected between IEO and ADS.

Entrepreneurial Passion [TOP]

Related to the concept of individual entrepreneurial orientation is the related construct of entrepreneurial passion (EP). EP has been variously conceptualized as compelling affective experiences that are accompanied by cognitive and behavioral components (Chen, Yao, & Kotha, 2009) or alternatively as strong positive feelings associated with thinking about the entrepreneurial domains of invention (passion for scanning the market for new opportunities, products, and services), foundation (passion for assembling financial, human, and social resources for new ventures), development (passion for growth and expansion of a venture after founding), and identity (characterized by internalized expectations of the centrality of entrepreneurship to an individual’s self-identity (Cardon, Gregoire, Stevens, & Patel, 2013). This relatively new EP construct may help mediate important entrepreneurial endeavors such as creative discovery (Baron, 2008), investor fund raising (Mitteness, Sudek, & Cardon, 2012) and human resources management (Cardon, 2008). Further, EP is hypothesized to augment work effort, task compliance, goal persistence, and performance (Cardon et al., 2013). Not only is EP tied to work-related activities, it is also hypothesized to play a meaningful role in an individual’s self-identity (Farmer, Yao, & Kung-McIntyre, 2011). Thus, this construct encompasses both the extent of an individual’s feelings about various entrepreneurial work activities and also how these feelings and perceptions influence one’s self-schema regarding their role at work.

As was the case for the IEO construct, it is expected that EP, which measures various dimensions of entrepreneurial passion, will be positively related to ADS.

Individualism and Collectivism [TOP]

The concepts of individualism (IND) and collectivism (COL) as contrasting individual worldviews have been prevalent in the multicultural and cross-cultural literature for the past four decades. An individualist worldview emphasizes personal goals, uniqueness, and control (Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Triandis, 1995), whereas a collectivist worldview emphasizes a group orientation, a focus on the common good, harmonious relationships with others, social roles and obligations, and contextual expectations from family, friends, and community (Kim, 1994; Triandis, 1995). A comprehensive review and meta-analysis (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002) of the IND-COL constructs indicated 27 distinct scales; 11 were measured as a unidimensional (bipolar) construct and 16 as a multidimensional construct. Much of the empirical and conceptual support appears to favor a multidimensional framework (Cozma, 2011).

Of these multidimensional IND-COL constructs, the IND-COL scale developed by Triandis and Gelfand (1998) has received the most empirical support in the literature. This scale furthers our understanding of the constructs of IND-COL by focusing on within-group distinctions of vertical and horizontal dimensions that reflect equality and inequality among cultural group members (Komarraju & Cokley, 2008; Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk, & Gelfand, 1995). Individuals who score high on the vertical dimension accept inequality and emphasize achievement and hierarchy. Conversely, individuals who score high on the horizontal dimension value equality and discourage competitive comparisons.

The combination of these two constructs yields four independent constructs: horizontal collectivism (HC), vertical collectivism (VC), horizontal individualism (HI), and vertical individualism (VI). HC individuals view the self as merged and equal to others of the in-group. Specifically, individuals who score high on either VI or HI are expected to be associated with ADS. This association lends itself to creating a composite individualism variable to explore a possible meditational role in the prediction of ADS. Conversely, individuals who score high on the collectivism dimensions (VC and HC) are expected to be weakly associated with ADS. Toward this end, we will create a latent variable labeled Rugged Individualism (Cramton, 1993; Fugita & Obrien, 1991). It is assumed that socially ambitious individuals (Baker, 1986; Loren, 1977; Stein, 1991) may be more individualistic (Cramton, 1993; Whitta, 1993) which could potentially mediate the direct influence of social ambition on ADS.

It is expected that the IND-COL constructs will covary with the ADS. Specifically, individuals who score high on VI and emphasize achievement, hierarchy, and independence are expected to be strongly associated with ADS. Conversely, individuals who score high on the HI domain that emphasizes equality of status and autonomy, as well as individuals who score high on the collectivism dimensions (VC and HC), should be weakly associated with ADS.

Aspirations [TOP]

According to self-determination theory (SDT; Kasser, 2002b), an individual’s life goals or aspirations help to guide one’s future goal-directed behavior. Two broad types of aspirations or goals, intrinsic and extrinsic, have been examined within SDT (Kasser & Ryan, 1993, 1996). Intrinsic aspirations are related to personal growth and acceptance, emotional intimacy and affiliation, and community involvement; extrinsic aspirations are related to self-promotion, financial success, social recognition, and having an appealing appearance. A variety of studies have found that individuals with strong extrinsic aspirations are more likely to be associated with negative indicators of mental health and well-being, whereas intrinsic aspirations have been found to predict positive outcomes (e.g., Niemiec, Ryan, & Deci, 2009; Romero, Gómez-Fraguela, & Villar, 2012; Ryan et al., 1999; Utvær, Hammervold, & Haugan, 2014). Additionally, recent evidence indicates that intrinsic aspirations are positively associated with enhanced learning, performance, and persistence in school settings (Rumberger, 2011), as well as a variety of indicators of well-being, such as life satisfaction (Vansteenkiste, Duriez, Simons, & Soenens, 2006), self-actualization (Schmuck, 2001), and relationship quality (Kasser & Ryan, 2001).

Based on the foregoing, it seems reasonable to expect that an individual’s extrinsic aspirations (financial success, social recognition, appealing appearance) to be strongly associated with ADS, whereas intrinsic aspirations (self-acceptance, community feeling, affiliation) are not expected to be significantly associated with the ADS.

Achievement Motivation [TOP]

Investigation of achievement motivation, the desire for excellence or attainment of significant career accomplishments (careerism), received initial impetus from Murray’s (1938) work on “need for achievement” (N-Ach), which was further elaborated by McClelland’s (1961) research using the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). McClelland (1958, 1965) and others have shown that students with high achievement motivation eventually took jobs in occupations characterized by risk and decision making (e.g., business managers or sales), whereas students with low achievement motivation gravitated toward non-entrepreneurial employment positions.

Most achievement theories of motivation can be dichotomized broadly as either disposition-based or situation-specific (Brophy, 2001). Disposition theorists argue that achievement motivation is innate, universal, and stable (Brophy, 2001; Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991). From this perspective, achievement motivation is a function of emotions, cognitions, and socialization, and is influenced by past experiences (McClelland, Koestner, & Weinberger, 1989), need for esteem (Dweck & Leggett, 1988), autonomy (Ryan, Deci, & Grolnick, 1995), mastery (Deci & Ryan, 2002), attributions (Weiner, 1985) and self-efficacy beliefs (Urdan & Maehr, 1995).

Situation-specific theories of achievement motivation focus on extrinsic factors such as prior success or failures (Bélanger, Lafrenière, Vallerand, & Kruglanski, 2013), external rewards (Madden, 1997), task difficulty (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000), and performance versus mastery (Elliot & McGregor, 2001). Achievement motivation is thus a function of both the internal qualities of the individual and the external attributes of the environment.

Based on the foregoing, it is reasonable to expect that achievement motivation will be positively associated with ADS.

Autonomy [TOP]

The concept of autonomy has been ubiquitous within both the philosophical and psychological literatures (Ryan & Deci, 2006). Human autonomy can be considered as a need, condition, or trait involving self-control or regulation. Investigators have examined this construct through a number of conceptualizations (e.g., Bekker & van Assen, 2006; Ryan & Deci, 2006; Spector, 1986). First, autonomy can be considered as self-governance or self-control (Ryan & Deci, 2006; Weinstein, Przybylski, & Ryan, 2012). Here, behavior is considered to be volitional and regulated by the self and not solely a function of environmental external contingencies. A second conceptualization emphasizes separateness from others and lack of adaptation (Hmel & Pincus, 2002). Self-awareness and insight concerning personal goals and plans to achieve these outcomes is prominent here. Third, aspects of the autonomy construct have been linked to sex differences and psychopathology (Bekker & van Assen, 2006). Lastly, autonomy or the degree of discretion workers employ at their jobs has been shown to predict higher levels of job satisfaction and lower levels of work-related stress and absenteeism (Breaugh, 1985, 1989, 1999; Spector, 1986). In this latter regard, workplace autonomy is argued to be a key component of both a firm’s and an individual’s entrepreneurial orientation that encourages freedom of action, creativity, pursuit of opportunities, strong leadership, and productive relationships (Lumpkin, Cogliser, & Schneider, 2009; Zhao et al., 2010). The construct of autonomy is expected to be positively associated with ADS.

The Scale Development Process [TOP]

Initial Item Pool Generation [TOP]

The development of the American Dream Scale (ADS) followed established scale development (Clark & Watson, 1995; Dawis, 1987; DeVellis, 2011; Gamst, Meyers, Burke, & Guarino, 2015) and validation procedures (Meyers, Gamst, & Guarino, 2013, 2017; Reise, Waller, & Comrey, 2000; Worthington & Whittaker, 2005). In the first phase, we conducted a thorough literature review on the constructs of social class, entrepreneurship, small business, and petty bourgeois with a search of several interdisciplinary databases (e.g., psychology, sociology, education, business).

The second phase involved developing items for the initial version of the ADS. In order to help develop the content addressed by the items, focus groups comprised of small business owners were formed to explore their motivations for forming and running a business and their attitudes about the work and efforts they invested in the business. Potential participants were those who had started a business venture, sourced and organized the required resources, and assumed both the risks and rewards associated with the venture. To recruit participants, two of the co-authors partnered with the local chamber of commerce in making a brief presentation to those attending a city-sponsored entrepreneurial networking event. The presentation introduced the purpose of the study and dates for the upcoming focus groups. Individuals who expressed an interest in participating were scheduled into one of two focus groups, lasting about two hours each. Nine small business owners agreed to join one of the two focus groups.

All focus group participants filled out a brief demographic questionnaire and provided informed consent. Participants ranged in age from 19-68 years (M = 41.00, SD = 15.22). Four focus group participants were female (44%) and five were male (56%). Race/ethnicity of participants included: four White Americans (44%), three Latino/a Americans (34%), one African American (11%), and one Asian American (11%). Educational levels ranged from high school graduate to college graduate. The audio of each focus group discussion was recorded, with the dialog carefully transcribed and checked for transcription accuracy. Each focus group participant was provided with a $75.00 gift card for his or her participation (see Mendoza et al., 2014).

The two focus group discussions were guided by an open-ended, semi-structured interview schedule with 12 probe questions addressing feelings and experiences related to what motivates someone who owns a small business (e.g., What are your dreams and aspirations? Is independence and autonomy important to you?). Following thematic coding procedures outlined by Flick (2009) and Schreier (2012) eight independent evaluators indicated that 12 separate themes (from 282 separate idea units evaluated in the transcripts) emerged from the focus groups. All summary idea units developed by the evaluators were reviewed by two of the co-authors. Inter-rater reliability among evaluators was consistently high (95% or higher). Analysis involved several iterations of data coding and thematic idea unit interpretation until clarity and consensus was established and complete agreement was achieved. These themes and the percentage of idea units were as follows: Work Ethic/Perseverance (18.09%), Mental Traits/Capacity for Success (14.54%), Passion (10.28%), Managerial Style (8.16%), Independence and Autonomy (7.80%), Legacy (7.45%), Risk Taking (7.45%), Family Values (6.74%), Education (6.38%), Economic Hopes and Aspirations (6.03%), Mental vs. Manual Labor (4.61%), and Spirituality (2.48%). The idea units embodied in these 12 themes, together with information gleaned from the literature review, were integrated thematically and rephrased by two of the co-authors to form 45 declarative statements comprising an initial set of scale items. Thus, the 12 focus groups themes were conceptually “mapped” into the initial 45 prototype ADS items.

Strategy for Analysis and Instrument Validation [TOP]

The 45-item ADS prototype scale and demographic questions were compiled into an online questionnaire for Study 1 with the intent of generating a shorter workable inventory from the original set of items. Data analysis began by reducing the 45-item ADS prototype scale to fewer items with a viable component structure. The reduced ADS prototype scale was administered to an independent sample in Study 2. In the first phase of the data analysis (Study 2a), the reduced ADS item set component structure was independently assessed through a confirmatory factor analysis. In the second phase of Study 2 (Study 2b), additional constructs were also examined within a structural model that related these variables to the ADS. In Study 3, an additional independent national sample of adults was used to confirm the component structure identified in the previous studies.

Study 1 [TOP]

Method [TOP]

Participants [TOP]

All studies were conducted in compliance with the host institution’s Internal Review Board and followed all APA ethical guidelines. Prospective participants were invited through a university-wide online posting to complete an online questionnaire designed to gain a better understanding of the “entrepreneurial spirit” of university students. Participants were informed that their participation was voluntary and that their responses would be anonymous. The participants were also informed that if they chose not to participate, they could simply return an incomplete questionnaire without any penalty. As an incentive, five $20.00 gift cards were randomly offered for completing the questionnaire.

Characteristics of the Study 1 sample can be seen in Table 1. A total of 349 students (257 female, 92 male) at a southern California private university who were conveniently sampled provided responses to the items. Participants’ age ranged from 17 to 61 (M = 25.91, SD = 9.73). The sample consisted of mostly White Americans (32.4%) and Latino/a Americans (37.8%), with other race/ethnicities distributed as follows: African American (5.2%), Asian American/Pacific Islander (7.2%), other (6.0%), mixed ethnicity (10.0%), and Native American Indian (1.1%).

Measures [TOP]

The online questionnaire contained 53 items comprising a demographic sheet and the prototype ADS scale.

Demographic sheet [TOP]

The demographic sheet contained seven items regarding the participants’ age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, annual household income, respondent’s occupation, partner/spouse’s occupation, and respondent ownership of a business.

The Prototype American Dream Scale [TOP]

The prototype ADS was a 45-item scale that measured work-related self-perceptions regarding personal abilities, motivations, and attitudes. Items were measured on a 4-point summative response scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). An example statement is: “My special work-related abilities make me unique.” All 45 prototypical ADS items can be seen in Table 2.

Results [TOP]

Principal Components Analysis of the ADS [TOP]

Prior to performing any statistical analyses, the data were screened by examining descriptive statistics and potential univariate and multivariate assumption violations for the prototype 45-item scale. No violations were detected. Data analysis then began to reduce the size of the 45-item set while simultaneously determining the underlying dimensional structure of the ADS.

Table 1

Demographics of the Study 1, Study 2 and Study 3 Samples

Demographic / Category Study 1
Study 2
Study 3
n % n % n %
Male 92 26.4 74 24.2 230 45.8
Female 257 73.6 232 75.8 272 54.2
Latino/a American 132 37.8 111 36.3 25 5.0
White American 113 32.4 98 32.0 391 77.9
Mixed Ethnicity 36 10.3 34 11.2 12 2.4
Asian American 25 7.2 35 11.4 34 6.8
African American 18 5.2 13 4.2 39 7.8
Native American 4 1.1 0 0.0 0 0.0
Other 21 6.0 15 4.9 1 0.2
College Graduate or Less 241 69.1 282 92.5 438 87.3
Graduate Degree 108 30.9 23 7.5 64 12.7
Under $15,000 69 19.8 62 20.6 34 6.8
$15,001-$35,000 64 18.3 58 19.0 107 21.4
$35,001-$75,000 101 28.9 102 33.4 216 43.0
$75,001-$150,000 87 24.9 55 18.0 124 24.7
$150,001 and Over 19 5.4 24 7.9 21 4.1
Unknown 9 2.7 5 1.1 0 0.0
Full-time Student/Not Employed 108 29.0 135 44.1 72 14.3
Management 82 24.0 28 9.2 51 10.2
Respondent Occupation
Education 45 11.7 39 12.7 37 7.4
Office/Administrative 41 13.0 27 8.8 94 18.7
Health, Legal, Tech 21 6.0 10 3.3 95 18.9
Sales, Food Prep 14 4.0 34 11.1 67 13.3
Self-Employed 9 2.6 4 1.3 34 6.7
Other 29 8.3 29 9.5 52 10.5
Full-Time Student 8 2.3 9 2.9 79 15.7
Management 31 8.9 10 3.3 41 8.2
Partner’s Occupation
Education 20 5.7 14 4.6 29 5.8
Office/Administrative 18 5.2 9 2.9 23 4.6
Health, Legal, Tech 16 4.6 5 1.6 61 12.2
Sales, Food Prep 9 2.6 12 3.9 51 10.2
Self-Employed 2 0.6 4 1.3 9 1.8
No Legal Partner 184 52.7 195 63.8 123 24.5
Other 61 17.5 48 15.7 86 17.0
Small Business Ownership
Yes 47 13.5 23 10.8 136 27.1
No 302 86.5 273 89.2 366 72.9

The first step in the item-reduction process was a set of principal components analyses each using a promax rotation procedure. A preliminary initial analysis using all 45 items yielded 9 components with eigenvalues greater than 1.00. Scree tests plus a comparison of the residual correlation matrices of a 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-component solution suggested that two components would best represent the data set (Meyers, Gamst, & Guarino, 2013, 2017).

A stringent iterative item-elimination process was then followed. Items were iteratively eliminated from the item-pool for the two-component promax rotated solution; at first, two to three items at a time were removed; later in the iteration process only one item was removed each time. Each reduced item set was again analyzed to verify that a two-component solution best represented the item structure. The intent of this process was to achieve a solution that was as close as was practical to simple structure, that is, we wanted each item to relate reasonably strongly with one component while relating reasonably weakly with the other component. Specifically, the scree plot appeared to level off and reach the point of diminishing returns past the second extracted component. With each iteration, the stringency of the retention criteria was somewhat raised. The final iteration required items to be associated with a pattern coefficient of at least .50 on one rotated component while yielding pattern coefficients of no greater than .10 (“cross-loading”) on the other rotated component (see Comrey & Lee, 1992; Meyers et al., 2017). In the final structure, every item met these two criteria. For example, Item 11 was associated most strongly (.76) with Component 1 and was associated (“cross-loaded”) relatively weakly with the other component (which had a pattern coefficient of .01).

The final version of the ADS resulting from this iterative process contained 17 items that offered a viable and interpretable structure. Hence, 28 items were eliminated either because of relatively lower pattern coefficients or because they exhibited “cross loadings” of .10 or greater. The principal components analysis for the final set of 17 items yielded two initial components with eigenvalues over 1.00, cumulatively accounting for 50.85% of the total variance. The pattern coefficients for the promax rotated solution together with the principal components extraction results, and a listing of the 28 items that were eliminated from the analysis, are presented in Table 2.

Table 2

Summary of Study 1 ADS Items and Pattern Coefficients From Principal Components Analysis With Promax Rotation (N = 349)

Original Item No. Final Item No. Wording Component 1 Component 2 h2 CITC
Creative Work Potential
26 11 My creativity drives my work-related success. .76 .01 .58 .67
29 12 My creativity is what separates me from my co-workers. .71 .06 .53 .63
18 9 I am most satisfied when my creativity is unleashed in the workplace. .70 -.04 .49 .60
14 7 My creative potential allows me to think outside the box. .69 .05 .47 .58
32 13 Work unleashes my creative potential .68 .04 .47 .59
11 5 My special work-related abilities make me unique. .66 -.01 .43 .55
41 17 My special abilities are needed at work. .66 -.01 .43 .55
9 4 My work allows me to set myself apart. .61 -.02 .36 .50
7 2 My individuality and uniqueness is embodied in the work I do. .57 -.01 .32 .47
4 1 I employ my creative talents as I see fit. .53 -.09 .27 .42
Be My Own Boss
23 10 Owning my own business is my ultimate career goal. -.03 .91 .82 .85
12 15 My top priority is to own my own company. -.04 .90 .79 .83
39 16 Self-employment is my long-term goal. .05 .81 .67 .73
16 8 Owning one’s own business is the ultimate sign of success. -.08 .78 .58 .66
8 3 I often dream of becoming a major capitalist entrepreneur. .09 .69 .52 .62
34 14 I want to see my name in a company logo. .04 .71 .51 .62
45 6 One of my greatest fears is the thought of having to work for someone else. .05 .63 .39 .52
Items Removed From Original Version
1 My creative abilities and insights help me to be productive.
2 I have a strong desire to own my own business.
3 Working in a collective and collaborative environment is not for me.
5 My personal goal is to become my own boss.
6 I work best when I am alone.
10 I do not want to submit my work efforts to a coordinated plan.
13 I prefer “to do my own thing” at work independent of the coordination of activities with co-workers.
15 I fulfill my full potential through my work.
17 I work best when I am left alone.
19 I dread following orders from others at work.
20 I find it difficult to work in a group setting.
21 I do not find it beneficial to work in a group.
22 I typically know more about my job than those who tell me what to do.
24 My preference is fully realized when I am at work.
25 My presences is to work alone.
27 I dread working with others.
28 My skills are best suited to being the boss in the workplace.
30 My best work is produced when I work alone.
31 I enjoy being in control at work.
33 Teamwork is not for me.
35 I need the flexibility to work alone on the job.
36 Challenges at work allow me to shine.
37 I’m at my best at work.
38 Group efforts sometimes slow me down at work.
40 I value individual effort at work.
42 At work, I want to answer only to myself.
43 I define myself through my work.
44 Collaboration is not essential in a work environment.
PCA Eigenvalues 5.30 3.34
PCA % of Variance 31.22 19.63

Note. Component 1 = Creative Work Potential; Component 2 = Be My Own Boss; h2 = Communality; CITC = Corrected Item Total Correlation.

Bolded pattern coefficients indicate the most salient association between a variable (item) and a given component.

Component 1 was represented by Items 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, and 17, and was labeled as Creative Work Potential; an example item is Item 11, which reads, “My creativity drives my work-related success.” Component 2 was represented by Items 3, 6, 8, 10, 14, 15, and 16, and was labeled as Be My Own Boss; an example is Item 10, “Owning my own business is my ultimate career goal.” The Pearson correlation between the two components was .23, p < .001. Internal consistency, as indexed by coefficient alpha for the items sets combined into subscales for Creative Work Potential and Be My Own Boss, was .85 and .89, respectively.

Study 2 [TOP]

Study 2a reports the results of a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to evaluate the hypothesized ADS two-factor structure (indicated in Study 1) based on data from an independent convenience sample of 306 adults. Study 2b includes an additional six scales, administered together with the 17-item ADS, to develop a structural model to predict the ADS. For this initial exploratory structural model, we focused on the predictive capacity of the latent construct of Social Ambition, which we hypothesized to be a function of various extrinsic aspirations (financial success, social recognition, and an appealing appearance), and the perceived need for autonomy or self-control and regulation (Kasser, 2002b; Kasser & Ryan, 1993, 1996; Ryan & Deci, 2006). That is, based on the literature (Baker, 1986; Loren, 1977; Stein, 1991), we expected social ambition to be positively related to ADS. We further predicted that being socially ambitious might be related to maintaining/demonstrating one’s individuality (Cramton, 1993; Fugita & Obrien, 1991; Loren, 1977; Thorpe, 2011). We operationalized this demonstration of individuality as Rugged Individualism, which combines both the horizontal and vertical dimensions (equality and inequality) of individuality (Oyserman et al., 2002). Finally, based primarily on Marxist theory (Baker, 1986; Lenin, 1905/1972; Loren, 1977; Weil, 1995) we hypothesized that the potential link between social ambition and ADS would be mediated by rugged individualism. Social ambition tends to manifest itself in individualist ambitions such as self-promotion, careerism, and seeking of special privileges (Loren, 1977). We argue that social ambition drives rugged individualism, which emphasizes passion for personal success as opposed to collective responsibility and achievement (Fugita & Obrien, 1991; Stein, 1991), which in turn influences the entrepreneurial spirit represented by ADS.

Method [TOP]

Participants and Procedure [TOP]

Participants were recruited through a university-wide online posting to complete an online questionnaire to examine the “entrepreneurial spirit” of university students. Participation was voluntary and anonymous. An incentive of five $20.00 gift cards was randomly offered for completing the questionnaire.

Characteristics of the sample can be seen in Table 1. A total of 306 students (232 female, 74 male) at a southern California private university were conveniently sampled. Participants’ age ranged from 18 to 61 (M = 25.93, SD = 9.62). The racial/ethnic composition of the sample was as follows: Latino/a American (36.3%), White American (32.0%), Asian American (11.4%), mixed ethnicity (11.2%), African American (4.2%), and other (4.9%).

Participants completed a consent form, the ADS, and the following six scales: Individual Entrepreneurial Orientation, Horizontal and Vertical Individualism and Collectivism Scale, Entrepreneurial Passion scale, PRF Achievement Scale, PRF Autonomy Scale, and the Aspirations Index, followed by a debriefing. In Study 2a, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted on the two-component 17-item ADS developed in Study 1 with a new independent sample that was not exposed to all 45 ADS Prototype items. In Study 2b, a structural model was developed, with some of these variables that successfully predicted the ADS.

Measures [TOP]

The online questionnaire contained 109 items comprising a demographic sheet and seven scales.

Demographic sheet [TOP]

The demographic sheet contained items regarding the participant’s sex, age, race/ethnicity, education, annual household income, occupation, occupation of partner/spouse, perceived social class, and ownership of a business.

American Dream Scale [TOP]

The American Dream Scale (ADS; Gamst, Kwon, & Meyers) is a 17-item self-report measure of the small business orientation (or commonly referred to as petty bourgeois mentality) of adults. The ADS measures work-related self-perceptions related to personal abilities, motivations, and attitudes and may be reinforced by an individual’s entrepreneurial orientation and passion, perceptions of individualism and collectivism, personal aspirations, and achievement motivations. The ADS consists of two subscales: Creative Work Potential (10 items) and Be My Own Boss (7 items). All items were measured on a 4-point summative response scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). For the present study, internal consistency values were .84 for Creative Work Potential and .91 for Be My Own Boss.

Individual Entrepreneurial Orientation Scale [TOP]

The Individual Entrepreneurial Orientation scale (IEO; Bolton & Lane, 2012) is a 10-item self-report measure of entrepreneurial orientation of university students and other adults. The IEO consists of three subscales: Risk Taking (3 items), Innovative (4 items), and Proactiveness (3 items). The items were measured on a 4-point summative response scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). Higher mean scores indicated greater entrepreneurial orientation. Bolton and Lane (2012) reported acceptable internal consistency values (> .70) for all three subscales. However, for the present study, internal consistency values included Risk Taking (α = .69), Innovative (α = .71), and Proactiveness (α = .65). Due to the relatively low reliability of the Risk Taking and Proactiveness subscales, a composite average of all 10 items (collapsed across all three subscales) was computed to better stabilize the measure. The composite IEO achieved an alpha of .76 and was used in all subsequent analyses.

Entrepreneurial Passion Scale [TOP]

The Entrepreneurial Passion scale (EP; Cardon, Gregoire, Stevens, & Patel, 2013) is a 13 item self-report measure of the affective and emotional dimensions of entrepreneurship. The EP scale consists of three subscales: Intense Positive Feelings-Inventive (4 items), Intense Positive Feelings- Founding (3 items), and Intense Positive Feelings-Developing (3 items). Three additional items measuring Identity Centrality for each of the three subscale domains were computed into a composite average in the present study and served as a separate subscale (3 items) that measured respondents’ Identity Centrality or personal collective saliency of these constructs. The items were measured using a 4-point summative response scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). Cardon et al. (2013) have reported acceptable internal consistency values of .85, .72, and .77 for the Inventive, Founding, and Developing subscales, respectively. For the present study, internal consistency values were .83 for IPF-Inventing, .91 for IPF-Founding, .85 for IPF-Developing, and .74 for Identity Centrality.

Individualism/Collectivism Scale [TOP]

The Individualism/Collectivism Scale (IND-COL; Triandis & Gelfand, 1998) is a 16-item self-report measure of a respondent’s attitudes about individualism and collectivism worldviews. Using a 4-point summative response scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree), two 8-item subscales measure the constructs of individualism and collectivism, and each is further refined into two subscales measuring the vertical and horizontal dimension of each construct. Thus, the scale consists of four 4-item subscales. Individualism is characterized by a preference for independence and prioritizing personal goals over group objectives. Collectivism is characterized by an emphasis on interdependent relationships and by ranking social obligations over personal ambitions (Oyserman et al., 2002). The vertical dimension is characterized by the acceptance of inequality among individuals and the role in which power influences inequality. The horizontal dimension is characterized by equality among people and values uniqueness without comparison or competition (Komarraju & Cokley, 2008; Singelis et al., 1995; Triandis & Gelfand, 1998). In practice, the Horizontal Individualism (HI) subscale taps a cultural pattern that emphasizes the endorsement of equal status and autonomy. The Vertical Individualism (VI) subscale measures the endorsement of independence, competition, and hierarchical status differences. Conversely, the Horizontal Collectivism (HC) subscale assesses adherence to the view of the self as merged and equal to others of the in-group. The Vertical Collectivism (VC) subscale measures acknowledgement of status differences and inequality among in-group members while still identifying the self as part of the group. Singelis et al. (1995) reported internal consistency values of .67, .74, .74, and .68 for HI, VI, HC, and VC, respectively. In the present study, internal consistency values were .77, .76, .68, and .68 for HI, VI, HC, and VC, respectively.

Aspiration Index [TOP]

The Aspiration Index (AI; Kasser & Ryan, 1993, 1996) assesses three extrinsic (wealth, fame, appearance) and three intrinsic (personal growth, community, affiliation) aspirations, each represented by five items. Several versions of the AI have commonly been used (Romero et al., 2012) and the 30-item six-subscale version was used in the present study. The items were measured using a 4-point summative response scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). The six subscales include (extrinsic orientation) Financial Success, Social Recognition, Appealing Appearance and (intrinsic orientation) Self-Acceptance, Community Feeling, and Affiliation. Kasser and Ryan (1993, 1996) reported internal consistency values for the six extrinsic and intrinsic aspiration subscales ranging between .54 and .89. For the present study, internal consistency values included Financial Success (α = .84), Social Recognition (α = .86), Appealing Appearance (α = .86), Self-Acceptance (α = .85), Community Feeling (α = .89), and Affiliation (α = .90).

PRF Achievement Scale [TOP]

The Personality Research Form Need for Achievement scale (PRFNA; Jackson, 1974; see also Steinmayr & Spinath, 2009) is a 16-item self-report measure that assesses thoughts and behaviors associated with high need for achievement and focuses on an individual’s tendency to be ambitious, determined, and striving. The items were measured using a 4-point summative response scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). Acceptable internal consistency has been reported with this measure for example, Steinmayr and Spinath (2009) reported an alpha of .78. However, in the present study a minimally acceptable level of internal consistency of .66 was achieved.

PRF Autonomy Scale [TOP]

The Personality Research Form Autonomy scale (PRFA; Jackson, 1984) is a 16-item self-report measure, based on Murray’s (1938) list of 20 needs, that assesses thoughts and behaviors associated with the need for personal autonomy with emphasis on independence, solitary life styles, and lack of personal constraints. The items were measured using a 4-point summative response scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). The PRF Autonomy scale is a widely used measure and has received strong psychometric support in the literature (Clark & Beck, 1991; Edwards, Abbott, & Klockars, 1972; Wiggins & Broughton, 1985). In the present study, a minimally acceptable level of internal consistency was achieved of .68.

Study 2a Results [TOP]

This analysis tested the hypothesis that the latent construct Creative Work Potential was a function of 10 measured variables and the latent construct Be My Own Boss was a function of seven additional measured variables. A confirmatory factor analysis was run using IBM SPSS Amos version 25 on the data from the 306 respondents. The initial analysis resulted in a statistically significant chi square value of 279.833 (118, N = 306), p < .001, but because in part the chi square index is sensitive to sample size (e.g., Bentler & Bonnet, 1980; Brown, 2015), it is common practice to rely on a combination of other fit measures to judge the degree to which the model fits the data (e.g., Bentler, 1990; Kline, 2015; Schumacker & Lomax, 2016). The GFI (.905), IFI (.928), TLI (.916), CFI (.927), and RMSEA (.066, 90%CI: .057-.077) all suggested an adequate to good fit of the model to the data. The two factors were correlated at a value of .320 (p < .001) indicating a modest degree of relationship.

Indicator variables associated with latent variables may be related to each other for several reasons beyond what they have in common with the factor (e.g., they may relate to a construct somewhat different from the factor, they may be reverse worded, they may contain common words or wording). For example, Items 1 and 2 focus on personal control of work behaviors, Items 4 and 5 deal with respondents being able to be differentiated from others, and Items 11 and 17 address the critical contribution of respondents in their work environment. It is difficult to anticipate in advance of the initial data analysis which pairs of indicators share enough variance with each other beyond that common to the factor so that failing to take those relationships into account can detract from model fit. Thus, taking such correlations into account after an initial attempt to assess model fit, although done so on a post hoc basis, may be useful in portraying a better or more veridical indication of the fit of the model to the data than not including them in the model (Bowen & Guo, 2012; Brown & Moore, 2012; Kline, 2015; Wang & Wang, 2012).

It was clear from the modification indexes provided by Amos that some of the item pairs shared sufficient variance outside of their common factor variance to impact model fit. With four correlations added between pairs of residual variance (error) terms, each within the Creative Work Potential factor as shown in Figure 1, the model fit was, not surprisingly, substantially improved. The chi square value of 183.450 (114, N = 306) was still statistically significant, p < .001, but the GFI (.937), IFI (.969), TLI (.963), CFI (.969), and RMSEA (.045, 90%CI: .032-.056) together suggested that the model was a good fit to the data. The pattern coefficients ranged in magnitude from .403 to .910, with ten of them associated with values of greater than .60.

Figure 1

Confirmatory factor analysis for two-factor ADS model. Latent constructs are shown in ellipses, and observed variables are shown in rectangles.

The results suggest that the 10 specified measured variables are indicators of the Creative Work Potential construct, and that the seven specified measured variables are indicators of the Be My Own Boss construct do a good job in measuring the American Dream concept. Thus, there appears to be support for the construct validity of the hypothesized two-component model.

Study 2b Results [TOP]

Given the ADS two-component structure developed in Study 1 and independently confirmed in Study 2a, we shifted our focus in the statistical analysis to hypothesize a structural model that predicted ADS (petty bourgeois mentality).

Descriptive Statistics and Correlations [TOP]

The means and standard deviations for the scales and subscales used in Study 2b are presented in Table 3. The values are generally in the range of those reported in the literature.

Table 3

Means, Standard Deviations, and Reliabilities for Scales and Subscales (Study 2b, N = 306)

Scale / Subscale M SD α
American Dream Scale
Creative Work Potential 3.07 0.42 .84
Be My Own Boss 2.24 0.71 .91
Individualism / Collectivism Scale
Vertical Individualism 2.57 0.60 .76
Horizontal Individualism 3.23 0.51 .77
Vertical Collectivism 3.17 0.49 .68
Horizontal Collectivism 3.17 0.41 .68
Individual Entrepreneurial Orientation 2.98 0.38 .76
Entrepreneurial Passion Scale
IPF-Inventing 2.81 0.62 .83
IPF-Founding 2.48 0.87 .91
IPF-Developing 2.74 0.75 .85
IPF-Identity Centrality 2.50 0.69 .74
Aspiration Index
Financial Success 2.83 0.57 .84
Social Recognition 2.57 0.62 .86
Appealing Appearance 2.66 0.64 .86
Self-Acceptance 3.29 0.48 .85
Community Feeling 3.34 0.50 .89
Affiliation 3.39 0.52 .90
PRF Autonomy Scale 2.71 0.31 .68
PRF Achievement Scalea 2.61 0.31 .66

aEliminated from all subsequent analyses due to low reliability.

Correlations among demographic variables and measures demonstrating acceptable levels of reliability are shown in Table 4. The two ADS subscales were moderately positively correlated with the IND-COL subscales (VI, HI, VC), rs ranging from .13 to .44, p < .001. One exception was HC with ADS-Be My Own Boss (r = -.02, p > .05); the non-significant correlation provides limited support for divergent validity due to the diametrically opposed values encapsulated in the two constructs. The ADS subscales and the IEO scale and EP subscales, were all moderately to highly positively correlated, rs ranging from .26 to .88, p < .001. These correlations provide construct validity for ADS. The six AI subscales and ADS subscales achieved low to moderate positive correlation, rs ranging from .13 to .50, p < .001, and again provide some evidence of construct validity. ADS subscales and PRFNA and PRFA also yielded moderate positive correlation, rs ranging from .25 to .36, p < .001 and also provide additional evidence of construct validity. Lastly, The ADS subscales yielded low negative correlations with small business ownership (past or present, ownership coded as 1 and non-ownership coded as 2) rs = -.14 and -.24, p < .001, for Creative Work Potential and Be My Own Boss, respectively, and provide additional evidence of construct validity.

Table 4

Intercorrelations for Scales and Subscales (Study 2b, N = 306).

Measure 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
1. Creative - .24** -.07 -.14* -.01 .17** .24** .19** .24** .52** .42** .26** .30** .42** .23** .37** .36** .37** .31** .22** .25** .26**
2. Boss - -.16** -.24** -.01 .44** .14* .13* -.02 .43** .54** .88** .61** .76** .48** .50** .42** .22** .13* .12* .36** .34**
3. Sex - .13* -.04 -.22** -.01 -.08 .08 -.18** -.18** -.21** -.22** -.18** -.17** -.25** -.09 -.06 -.08 -.06 -.18** -.18**
4. Own - .15** -.04 .05 -.08 -.05 -.09 -.21** -.22** -.15** -.21** -.11 -.05 -.08 -.04 -.04 -.06 -.02 .10
5. Subclass - -.01 .06 -.07 -.03 .06 .03 -.03 .01 .01 .01 .01 -.01 .02 .04 .03 .11 .13*
6. VI - .23** -.01 -.12* .36** .18** .37** .27** .33** .35** .36** .34** .13* .04 .03 .25** .26**
7. HI - .14* .09 .38** .11 .05 .07 .13* .21** .18** .19** .31** .22** .16** .28** .26**
8. VC - .38** .18** .12* .07 .13* .17** .17** .13* .25** .22** .30** .27** .24** .22**
9. HC - .25** .12* -.04 .12* .07 .06 .16** .14* .28** .36** .32** .17** .20**
10. IEO - .43** .38** .37** .47** .35** .43** .35** .41** .34** .25** .30** .42**
11. Invent - .60** .15** .66** .24** .38** .28** .18** .13* .10 .22** .27**
12. Found - .71** .80** .38** .40** .33** .19** .13* .12* .22** .25**
13. Develop - .73** .27** .35** .28** .25** .19** .17** .23** .24**
14. Central - .39** .49** .43** .26** .20** .16** .24** .35**
15. Financial - .70** .75** .44** .33** .35** .43** .33**
16. Social - .74** .37** .28** .23** .51** .46**
17. Appear - .37** .26** .24** .45** .36**
18. Self-Acc - .83** .82** .90** .24**
19. Common - .78** .35** .22**
20. Affil - .28** .14*
21. Achieve - .55*
22. Auto -

Note. Creative = ADS-Creative Work Potential Subscale; Boss = ADS-Be My Own Boss Subscale; Sex = Respondent's Sex (1 = male, 2 = female); Own = Ownership of Small Business (1 = Yes, 2 = No); Subclass = MacArthur Scale of Subjective Social Status-Youth Version; VI = Individualism-Collectivism-Vertical Individualism Subscale; HI = Individualism-Collectivism-Horizontal Individualism Subscale; VC = Individualism-Collectivism-Vertical Collectivism Subscale; HC = Individualism-Collectivism-Horizontal Collectivism Subscale; IEO = Individual Entrepreneurial Orientation Scale; Invent = Entrepreneurial Passion-Inventing Subscale; Found = Entrepreneurial Passion-Founding Subscale; Develop = Entrepreneurial Passion-Developing Subscale; Central = Entrepreneurial Passion-Identity Centrality Subscale; Financial = AI-Financial Success Subscale; Social = AI-Social Recognition Subscale; Appear = AI-Appealing Appearance Subscale; Self-Acc = AI-Self-Acceptance Subscale; Common = AI-Community Feeling Subscale; Affil = AI-Affiliation Subscale; Auto = PRF-Autonomy Scale; Achieve = PRF-Achievement Scale.

*p < .05. **p < .01.

Analysis of the Exploratory Model [TOP]

A number of constructs (PRF Achievement, intrinsic orientation, entrepreneurial passion, individual entrepreneurial orientation, and collectivism) had low to moderate correlation with the ADS and were omitted from consideration. Elimination and/or inclusion of various constructs for the structural model was driven, in part, by previous theoretical observations and predictions (Baker, 1986; Loren, 1977; Weil, 1995; Wright, 1980), and also pragmatic statistical considerations ultimately driven by model fit (Kline, 2015; Meyers et al., 2017). Next, two latent constructs were created. First, regarding the measurement of social ambition, the three extrinsic orientation measured variables (financial success, social recognition, appealing appearance) and the PRF Autonomy scale were strongly correlated and conceptually related. These four scales were treated as indicators of a more general latent variable of Social Ambition.

Second, due to the moderate correlation and strong conceptual relationship between the two individualism measured variables (VI and HI), and accepted practice by other investigators (Oyserman et al., 2002), these two were treated as indicators of a more general latent variable (Rugged Individualism) within the model. Third, Creative Work Potential and Be My Own Boss were specified as indicators of the ADS latent variable.

Using these latent variables and based in part on Marxist theory (Baker, 1986; Loren, 1977; Weil, 1995; Wright, 1980) an initial exploratory structural model was tested. We expected Rugged Individualism to mediate the link between Social Ambition and ADS. Socially ambitious individuals tend to be more focused on extrinsic aspirations (Kasser & Ryan, 1993), and these more self-absorbed personal goals lend themselves to individualist ambitions and orientations (Cramton, 1993; Loren, 1977; Stein, 1991) that may mediate ADS (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

Structural model predicting ADS construct. Latent constructs are shown in ellipses, and observed variables are shown in rectangles.

The model yielded an adequate fit to the data. Although the chi square value was statistically significant (16, N = 306) = 56.372, p < .001, the GFI, IFI, and CFI were .958, .956, and .955, respectively, and the RMSEA was .091. Figure 2 presents the standardized coefficients and squared multiple correlations associated with the model. The paths from Social Ambition to Rugged Individualism (standardized path coefficient = .655, p < .001), from Rugged Individualism to ADS (standardized path coefficient = .621, p = .032), and from Social Ambition to ADS (standardized path coefficient = .459, p = .024) were all statistically significant. The Aroian (1947) test, one variation of the Sobel (1982, 1986) test family, was used to evaluate the statistical significance of the indirect effect, and it showed that the indirect effect of Social Ambition through Rugged Individualism to ADS was statistically significant z = 2.04, p = .041. We considered using a bootstrap or resampling with replacement procedure for computing confidence intervals around various statistics computed in our structural model (Efron, Rogosa, & Tibshirani, 2004; Efron & Tibshirani, 1993). However, since no parametric statistical assumption violations were observed, we elected to not pursue this approach. Approximately 43% and 97% of the variance of Rugged Individualism and ADS, respectively, was explained by the model configuration.

With all of the paths being statistically significant, the possibility of having obtained a partial mediation effect was raised; hence, the unmediated model (in which Social Ambition predicted ADS in isolation) was evaluated. In the unmediated model, the direct path between Social Ambition and ADS was statistically significant (standardized path coefficient = .878, p = .001), and a Freedman-Schatzkin (Freedman & Schatzkin, 1992) test comparing the direct coefficients in the two models verified that the direct path coefficient in the unmediated model was significantly stronger than the corresponding coefficient in the mediated model t(304) = 3.15, p = .002, indicating that partial mediation has occurred.

When considered in isolation, greater levels of Social Ambition lead to higher levels of ADS. However, this dynamic increases in complexity when respondents’ individualism is taken into account. In this circumstance, it appears that the effect of one’s social ambition on their petty bourgeois outlook or consciousness is partially mediated by the degree to which participants feel individualistic. Specifically, higher levels of Social Ambition were associated with higher levels of Rugged Individualism that were also associated with greater levels of ADS. Based on the ratio of the strength of the standardized indirect effect to the strength of the unmediated standardized effect (.459/.878), we can conclude that slightly over half (52.28%) of the isolated direct effect of Social Ambition on ADS was mediated through Rugged Individualism.

Study 3 [TOP]

The goal of Study 3 was to perform a confirmatory factor analysis on the 17 ADS items to evaluate the hypothesized two-factor structure with data from an additional independent sample that was not directly connected to a private university as were the previous two samples. While our focus was on replicating the CFA of Study 2a with a new independent (non-college student) sample, and not replicating the structural model of Study 2b, we did examine several correlates of ADS, for purposes of convergent validity. More specifically, we included the PRF Achievement scale, PRF Aspiration Index (extrinsic goal orientation subscales, since they were relatively highly correlated to ADS in Study 2), and the Noblesse Oblige (NO) and Social Programs (SP) scales (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994) that tap attitudes about assisting less fortunate individuals and recipients of government social programming, respectively, for the purposes of discriminant validity. It is expected that the NO and SP scales will be negatively correlated to the ADS construct.

Method [TOP]

Participants and Materials [TOP]

A convenience sample of 502 adults in the US (54.2% women, Mage = 35.43, SD = 11.42, White American 77.9%, African American 7.8%, Asian American 6.8%, Latino/a American 5.0%, mixed ethnicity 2.4%, other ethnicity 0.2%) were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) a website that provides participants for financial compensation. See Table 1 for sample details. An MTurk sample was chosen to provide a broader range of participants from the previous samples of private southern CA university students. Participants were provided with a $2.00 USD payment for their participation. MTurk has been shown to provide samples that are reasonably consistent with typical university student convenience samples (Crump, McDonnell, & Gureckis, 2013).

Measures [TOP]

The online questionnaire contained 85 items comprising a demographic sheet and 5 scales.

Demographic sheet [TOP]

The demographic sheet contained seven items regarding the participants’ age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, income, respondent occupation, partner occupation, and small business ownership (past, present).

American Dream Scale [TOP]

See Study 2a Method section. For the present study, internal consistency values were .91 for Creative Work Potential and .88 for the Be My Own Boss subscales, respectively.

PRF Achievement Scale [TOP]

See Study 2 Method section. In the present study, a minimally acceptable level of internal consistency of .65 was achieved.

Aspiration Index (Extrinsic Goal Orientation subscales) [TOP]

See Study 2 Method section. In the present study, the scores of the three extrinsic subscales (Financial Success, Social Recognition, Appealing Appearance) achieved internal consistency values of .79, .83, and .82, respectively.

Noblesse Oblige [TOP]

The Noblesse Oblige scale (NO; Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994) is a 6 item self-report measure that assesses the social norm that obligates individuals of higher perceived rank to be honorable and generous with those of lower perceived rank. The six items were measured using a 7-point summative response scale that ranged from 1 (very negative) to 7 (very positive). Pratto et al. (1994) have reported minimally acceptable internal consistency values that averaged across eight samples to be .66. For the present study, the internal consistency value was .86.

Social Programs [TOP]

The Social Programs scale (SP; Pratto et al., 1994) is a 10 item self-report measure that assesses degree of endorsement of government-sponsored social programs that target poor or homeless individuals. The items were measured using a 7-point summative response scale that ranged from 1 (very negative) to 7 (very positive). Pratto et al. (1994) have reported acceptable internal consistency values that averaged across six samples to be .78. For the present study, the internal consistency value was .88.

Results [TOP]

A confirmatory factor analysis was run using IBM Amos version 25 on the data from these 502 respondents. The initial analysis resulted in a statistically significant chi square value of 354.118 (118, N = 502), p < .001, but because in part the chi square index is sensitive to sample size (e.g., Bentler & Bonnet, 1980; Brown, 2015), it is common practice to rely on a combination of other fit measures to judge the degree to which the model fits the data (e.g., Bentler, 1990; Kline, 2015; Schumacker & Lomax, 2016). The GFI (.917), IFI (.947), TLI (.938), CFI (.946), and RMSEA (.063, 90% CI: .056-.071) all suggested an adequate fit of the model to the data. The two factors were correlated at a value of .474 (p < .001) indicating a moderate degree of relationship.

It was clear from the modification indexes that some of the item pairs shared variance outside of their common factor variance. As described in Study 2a, it is difficult to anticipate many of these relationships at the start of the initial data analysis but, taking such correlations into account after an initial attempt to assess model fit, although done so on a post hoc basis, may be useful in providing a more veridical indication of the fit of the model to the data than not including them (Bowen & Guo, 2012; Brown & Moore, 2012; Kline, 2015; Wang & Wang, 2012).

With six correlations added between pairs of error terms, each within a factor, the model fit was, not surprisingly, substantially improved. It should be noted that most of these correlations (based on the adult convenience sample) are not the same as were added to the model in Study 2a based on a student sample. This suggests that there may be some nuance in the residual variance of some of the indicators that may be sensitive to background characteristics of the sample, making for a somewhat different pattern of added correlations; it is further the case that we added only a few of the correlations suggested by the data analysis, and so some of those added in Study 2a may not have been selected to be added to the present model. Despite these small differences, the inventory items appeared to viably represent the proposed factors. Future investigators may want to take these post-hoc correlations into account in their own research. That is, the chi square value of 221.421 (118, N = 502) was still statistically significant, p < .001, but the GFI (.949), IFI (.975), TLI (.970), CFI (.975), and RMSEA (.044, 90% CI: .036-.053) uniformly suggested that the model was a very good fit to the data. The confirmatory structure is shown in Figure 3. Further, 15 of the 17 items yielded pattern coefficients of at least .697 with most in the .80s; only two items were associated with coefficients of noticeably lower (but still) acceptable values: Item 1 on Creative Work Potential (.468) and item 6 on Be My Own Boss (.476).

Figure 3

Confirmatory factor analysis (Study 3) of the ADS construct. Latent constructs are shown in ellipses, and observed variables are shown in rectangles.

Table 5 reports the inter-correlations among the variables in Study 3. The ADS subscales were moderately correlated (r = .44, p < .001) with each other. Evidence of convergent validity was demonstrated by moderate positive correlations between the extrinsic aspirations subscales (Financial Success, Social Recognition, Appealing Appearance) and ADS Creative Work Potential subscale (rs = .32 to .39, p < .001) and ADS Be My Own Boss subscale (rs = .43 to .47, p < .001). Additional convergent evidence was observed between the low negative correlation between the ADS subscales and respondent small business ownership (Creative Work Potential, r = -.21, p < .001, Be My Own Boss, r = -.26, p < .001). Conversely, evidence of potential discriminant validity may be suggested by the non-significant correlation between the ADS Be My Own Boss subscale and the Noblesse Oblige scale (r = -.01, p > .05) and the Social Programs scale (r = -.09, p > .05).

Table 5

Bivariate Correlations, Means, Standard Deviations, and Alphas for Scales and Subscales (Study 3, N = 502)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 M SD α
1. Creative - .44** -.05 -.21** .36** .39** .32** .25** .17* 2.91 .60 .91
2. Boss - -.11* -.26** .47** .47** .43** -.01 -.09 2.46 .77 .88
3. Sex - -.01 -.09 -.12* .03 .14* .19** - - -
4. Own - -.10 -.12* -.06 .11* .11* - - -
5. Financial - .68** .70** -.09 -.05 2.61 .65 .79
6. Social - .73** -.02 -.08 2.32 .70 .83
7. Appear - -.04 -.09 2.42 .70 .82
8. Noblesse - .73** 5.15 1.27 .86
9. SP - 5.29 1.23 .88

Note. Creative = ADS-Creative Work Potential subscale; Boss = ADS-Be My Own Boss subscale; Sex = Respondent's Sex (1 = male, 2 = female); Own = Past/Present Small Business Ownership (1 = yes, 2 = no); Financial = AI Financial Success Subscale; Social = AI Social Recognition subscale; Appear = AI Appealing Appearance subscale; Noblesse = Noblesse Oblige scale; SP = Social Programs subscale.

*p < .05. **p < .01.

The findings of moderate positive correlation between ADS and the extrinsic aspirations are in line with Self-Determination Theory (Kasser, 2002b) and suggests that individuals who score high on ADS have life goals and aspirations that are fundamentally related to self-promotion and personal advancement. Because the small business previous/past ownership question was coded 1 = yes and 2 = no, the negative association between ADS and small business ownership indicates that ADS orientation lines up somewhat with actual small business behavior (ownership). Although little published research has utilized the NO and SP scales, the positive correlations between ADS Creative Work Potential and NO (r = .25, p < .01) and SP (r = .17, p < .05) and the non-significant correlation between ADS Be My Own Boss and NO and SP are in line with the Pratto et al. (1994) findings and provide some support for divergent validity.

General Discussion [TOP]

The present study supports the development and construct validity of the ADS as a measure of an individual’s petty bourgeois mentality or small business aspirations and outlook. Based in part on focus groups and exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, two unique dimensions of (ADS) petty bourgeois mentality (Creative Work Potential and Be My Own Boss) were identified. The Creative Work Potential construct emphasizes how work activities are perceived as the trigger for “unleashing” an individual’s creative potential and special unique work-related abilities. Individuals scoring high on this subscale view their work activities as an opportunity to perform or carry out specialized skill-sets that identify them as unparalleled or rare.

The Be My Own Boss construct taps the classic petty bourgeois aspiration of individual small business ownership. Individuals who score high on this construct share a sentiment antithetical to working for someone else. Instead, these individuals see ownership of their own means of production as their long-term goal and an indicator of life success.

Through the development of a structural model, the present study provides support for one possible process that suggests that one’s petty bourgeois outlook (ADS) is strongly influenced by an individual’s acquired social ambitions that are in turn, reinforced by the level of individualism a person operates with. The latent construct of Social Ambition is a mosaic of the three extrinsic aspiration goals (financial success, social recognition, and appealing appearance) and the PRFA that emphasizes independence, and lack of personal constraints. Thus, Social Ambition captures, to a large extent, the prototypical conception of a petty bourgeois entrepreneurial-oriented individual. These social ambitions are clearly reinforced by the latent Rugged Individualism construct that is a composite of the two individualism subscales (horizontal and vertical) and accentuate the issues of personal autonomy and independence which is at the heart of the ADS (petty bourgeois mentality) construct that these latent variables predict.

Conceptual Development [TOP]

This section explores some of the factors underlying the conceptual development of the petty bourgeois outlook, embodied in the ADS. First, this mentality is fostered by and manifests itself in the thinking of individuals outside of the dwindling petty bourgeoisie (or small business class). Many working class (i.e., wage and salary earners) individuals may have incorporated this outlook into their self-schemas. One point of reference (Marx, 1867/1967) would interpret this consciousness as being promoted by the material relations of the capitalist mode of production. Some of these relations of production include the issue of wages, the private family, authority relations, and mental labor (Loren, 1977), any or all of which encourage and promote a petty bourgeois outlook.

Wages and salaries (partially captured with the financial success extrinsic aspiration subscale) are the form of revenue earned by working class individuals under capitalism. Wages reflect two component parts: necessary labor is found in the value of the amount of goods needed to maintain labor power utilized in production; surplus labor and its product reflect the value produced above and beyond the restoration and maintenance of this labor power during production. Under capitalism wages mask the relation between necessary and surplus labor; all labor appears as necessary or paid labor without an unpaid component. These wage forms are the material bases upon which wage and salary workers begin to correlate their individual effort with their proportional contribution to production in the form of wage payment. It may be that individuals who score high on the ADS may foster greater expectations (petty bourgeois illusions) that they be paid according or in proportion to their perceived individual work effort as opposed to individuals who score relatively low on the ADS.

Second, perhaps the most important function of the nuclear patriarchal family (husband, wife, children) under capitalism is the rearing of children to help provide for the next generation of workers (as suggested by Loren, 1977). Under capitalism children are economically dependent on their parents for food, shelter, well-being, and ultimately the transmission of economic position in society (Loren, 1977). Economic dependency is further established through instruction, supervision, and sometimes ultimatum often resulting in an individualistic outlook for the child. Further, a parent’s economic position is often passed on to their children or grandchildren and is realized in the transmittal of economic aspirations, educational, occupational, and savings opportunities and ownership of property. These economic contingencies buttress both child and adult petty bourgeois conceptualizations of an individual’s economic standing as a function of an individual’s special capacities. Additionally, Reich (1933) observed that petty producers in Germany prior to World War II were often linked to political reaction and support of Nazism due to their reliance on the patriarchal and self-exploiting family business operations typically controlled by the father. Individuals who score high on the ADS may be more paternalistic in outlook regarding family relations and may be more likely to view the outcomes of social relationships and economic position in terms of individual capacities and endowments. The relationship between ADS and paternalism remains to be established in future empirical research.

Third, work activities under capitalism sometimes take the form of management, supervision, and technical direction, typically under some form of bureaucratic hierarchy. Such hierarchies can breed careerism (i.e., achievement aspirations, favoritism, nepotism), and self-promotion (i.e., narcissism and/or extrinsic goal orientation)—all forms of petty bourgeois individualism. Capitalism through promotions, merit pay differentials, and special perquisites reinforces such practices. While these relations of authority do not change one’s class identity (i.e., an individual’s relationship to the means of production) they do help undermine the unity of the working class by sowing seeds of inequality among workers. Individuals who score high on the ADS may be more likely at work to seek promotion and special privileges as a means of furthering their personal career ambitions. Conversely, individuals who score relatively low on the ADS should have higher relative class consciousness (Keefer et al., 2015) and a greater collective outlook regarding social action. These lines of investigation conceptualizing ADS as a predictor remain for future investigators to explore.

Under capitalism work activities can be broadly dichotomized between mental and manual labor and this separation can also serve as a source of petty bourgeois consciousness among those intellectuals who work primarily with their minds to produce a personal product or outcome (e.g., book, article, performance, artwork). Often working alone, these members of the working class come to see their own individuality embodied in their creative endeavors. These individuals consider their insight and creativity to be a function of their genetic endowment or special mental capacities or traits. It is expected that individuals who are primarily mental laborers (i.e., intellectuals) will score higher on the ADS than individuals who are primarily manual laborers. We believe these four bases of petty bourgeois consciousness (i.e., wages, private family, authority relations, mental labor) are somewhat encapsulated in the two ADS subscales (Creative Work Potential: authority relations, mental labor) and (Be My Own Boss: wages, private family).

Limitations [TOP]

First, the present study was based on several convenience samples of college students at a private university and of the general population through MTurk. As such, the samples employed in this study may not be generalizable to all adults in the US. Second, the scores on several measures (PRF Autonomy and Achievement scales) produced relatively low Cronbach’s alphas indicating these measures used with this sample may not be reliable. This was also true for the IEO measure, necessitating collapsing its three subscales into a more stable composite unidimensional measure of individual entrepreneurial orientation. Third, to facilitate the creation of our Rugged Individualism latent variable in our structural model, we combined our individualism-measured variables (VI and HI) thus eliminating an assessment of each construct’s unique contribution. Fourth, scores of the ADS subscale Be My Own Boss correlated substantially (rs = .88, .61, .76, p < .001) with the scores of the Entrepreneurial Passion subscales Founding, Developing, and Identity Centrality, respectively, and may indicate these constructs are measuring similar underlying attitudes. Additional research might be necessary to understand the discriminant and unique validity of the ADS compared to these constructs. Fifth, the structural model developed in the present study was not replicated and needs to be further assessed in subsequent research. And finally, although the current investigation concentrates solely on validating the ADS using cross-sectional data, future studies should attempt to further scrutinize our findings by engaging in a longitudinal research design.

Conclusion, Implications, and Future Research [TOP]

The current studies offer an instrument (the ADS) that provides a valid and reliable means of measuring an individual’s petty bourgeois or small business orientation. Use of the ADS should help investigators explore the subtleties of social class differences within the US population. Future systematic research should continue to explore the correlates of the ADS with other personality and economic constructs. It would be interesting to treat social class as an independent variable (workers or wage and salary earners versus petty producers or individuals who own their own means of production) and look for differences on the ADS. If both groups do the same work activities (e.g., landscaping or cooking), but one group owns their own means of production (they are petty producers or small business persons) and the other does not (they are wage or salary workers), then, all other variables being relatively equal (e.g., cultural factors), it would be reasonable to expect the petty producers to score higher on the ADS, demonstrating the importance of class on worldview. A national random probability sample of wage and salary earners would also be helpful to ascertain the proportion of petty bourgeois outlook currently imbued among the US working class.

The ADS, and its attendant attitudes, behaviors, values, and aspirations, may also have practical policy implications. For example, we would expect that the ADS subscales would impact and/or predict an individual’s attitudes toward various business policies such as collective bargaining, universal healthcare, support for diversity initiatives, or local vs. national political control as was demonstrated with the Pratto et al. (1994) NO and SP scales and the ADS. Behaviorally, we would expect the ADS to predict career choice (business or MBA degree program). Values that foster and resonate success, independence, ambition, and autonomy should be predictive of the ADS. Aspirations that reflect merit-based individual effort, upward family mobility, and growth of innate mental traits should also be linked to the ADS. Understanding the parameters of the ADS could provide a unique window into the historical complexities (Isenberg, 2016) of the interaction of social class structure and attitudes at play within the US working class.

Lastly, the ADS should be of interest to psychologists and other social scientists because the United States, under capitalism, is a society mired in fundamental class divisions and antagonisms, where the economic gap between capitalists and the working class is rapidly increasing, and while simultaneously the petty producer class is rapidly diminishing (Loren, 1977; Spector, 1995, 2007). The present ADS instrument helps to refocus behavioral scientists’ attention to the attitudinal legacy petty producers have historically imbued various working class strata with petty bourgeois aspirations of individualism and personal success. By utilizing the ADS and related constructs in their research designs, psychologists may begin to shed their collective socioeconomic “blinders” concerning social class, economics, and political discourse. We concur with Sloan (2005) when he aptly noted: “Psychologists have a hard time recognizing that the acceptance they find within the social system is partially due to their willingness to serve as conveyors of exactly the forms of individualism the system of exploitation requires…” (p. 315).

Funding [TOP]

The authors have no funding to report.

Competing Interests [TOP]

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Acknowledgments [TOP]

The authors have no support to report.

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  • Glenn Gamst, Leticia Arellano-Morales, Lawrence S. Meyers, Brittany Tolstoy, Sara Garcia, Gustav Sjobeck, Rachel Blair, Marisa Casas (2018)
    Development and Validation of the Latina American Shifting Scale (LASS)
    Gender Issues

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