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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mainstream urban lifestyles : indices and determinants Gill, Warren George


Most studies of lifestyle have examined pre-defined groups and have assumed that style of life is the product of a single social indicator such as socio-economic status. This thesis challenges these views and demonstrates that lifestyle is rather a synoptic concept which is a significant tool for contemporary socio-spatial research. The study comprises two major sections: a detailed examination, from an interdisciplinary perspective, of the lifestyle-related literature and an empirical analysis of the development and determination of mainstream urban lifestyles in Vancouver, British Columbia. Five broad components of lifestyle — cognitive, demographic, behavioral, locational, and symbolic — are identified and provide a conceptual schema which is employed as the basis for the analytical portion of the research. Particular attention has been devoted to examination of symbolic measures as indices of lifestyle. The first four components were assessed through a sample of 1647 socially and spatially stratified households in the Greater Vancouver region. Measures for the symbolic component were derived from a follow-up study of 102 of these households. The data sets were factor analyzed in three groups (cognitive, demographic-behavioral, and symbolic) to develop a more parsimonious description of the variables. The demographic and behavioral components revealed ten dimensions which assessed levels of socio-economic achievement, family and age characteristics, leisure activities, interactional and participatory patterns, and ethnic origins. The cognitive component produced 20 scales which represented a range of attitudes, dispositions, and values. These scales evaluated personality traits, social flexibility, attitudes toward bureaucracy and political control, and perceptions of urban issues. Nine semantic differential scales, describing the living rooms of the subjects' homes, were appropriate for the evaluation of the symbolic component. From these analyses, seven independent lifestyle groups were produced from a hierarchical grouping analysis. Three lifestyles were dominant within the region; the Middle Canadian, Blue Collar, and Familistic groups accounted for almost 70 percent of the respondents. The remaining four groups, Ethnic, Empty Nest, Professional, and Ruralistic, were less significant numerically. Descriptions of the groups were based on the scores on the input factors, original variables, and other measures not utilized for the grouping procedure. The principal determinants of lifestyle were established through a series of discriminant analyses. None of the five sets of component measures proved individually to be a particularly useful overall index. Particular lifestyles responded better to determination from some measures than others. Correct classification of group membership could be best predicted from combined measures which included assessments of age-occupation, urban/housing experience and attitudes, ethnicity, social flexibility, and leisure orientation. Traditional measures of social differentiation (income, occupation), with the exception of age variables, are restricted in explanatory power unless combined with more behavioral measures. Attitudes about social change (social flexibility, traditional family structure) are better individual indicators. The symbolic measures predicted some of the groups but were of little consequence for others. Although the semantic differential factors had discriminatory power, some of this was subsumed by other measures across the discriminant functions. Residential location was of little general consequence in explaining the distribution of lifestyles as most groups were represented in all parts of the region. A principal conclusion is that lifestyles are not the product of any single social indicator. The results indicate that the lifestyle concept is a synoptic variable, composed of the five identified components, which offers an important vehicle for research. This thesis provides a framework for the empirical analysis of mainstream lifestyles in contemporary urban society and reveals the principal elements of group determination.

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