The Role of Media System Development in the Emergence of Postmaterialist Values and Environmental Concern: A Cross-National Analysis*


Direct correspondence to Lee Ahern, Penn State University, 118 Carnegie, University Park, PA 16803, <>. The data needed to produce this were obtained from the World Values Survey, International Monetary Fund, and International Telecommunications Association and are available free of charge. The author thanks these organizations for making the data available for analysis.


Important theories related to the social development of environmental concern and attitudes ascribe different roles to the media. Inglehart's materialist–postmaterialist value shift thesis sees the development of a more advance media system as promoting pro-environmental values. Gerbner's cultivation theory, on the other hand, sees the media as promoting consumerist tendencies, which run counter to environmental concern. This study examines the effect of media system development on postmaterialist values and environmental concern at the national and individual levels. Controlling for other factors known to impact the emergence of environmental concern, the overall effect of media system development is largely negative. However, this result should be considered in light of interactions within and among other key variables. Hierarchical linear modeling is employed to examine the impact of media system development on environmental concern considering individual- and country-level predictors. Results indicate media system development uniquely explains a small but significant amount of variation in individual-level environmental concern. Findings are discussed in the theoretical context of country-level predictors of environmental concern.