Understanding the demographics of existing and emerging cultural values are at least as important in guiding your investment strategy as the new hot stock pick

Core Values: The Trunk of Our Culture

Social scientist Paul Ray and Psychologist Sherry Anderson’s landmark text, “Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World”, identified three segments in U.S. cultural values which also correlate with somewhat different but parallel profiles around the world. These three major values categories are Traditionalists, Modernists and Cultural Creatives.

The Traditionalists embody the foundational traditional values of family, church and the small town American way. They tend to be uncomfortable with the narrative of modern society and often find themselves looking back on some imagined past where things were the way they “ought to be”. Traditionalists account for approximately 26% of the population, some 81 million Americans with a median age of 53.

The Modernists have roots in the origin of the urban merchant class of 150 years ago. They are the dominant group representing approximately 41% of the population, 129 million strong with a median age of 39 years. Modernists place a high value on personal success. They believe in consumerism, materialism and technological rationality in a model of continuous economic growth. Interestingly they also carry the highest cynicism quotient among all groups.

Traditionalists and Modernists historically are the dominant way this country has known itself. The values expressed by these two groups are what have dominantly determined consumer habits, political behavior and investment practices throughout the American experiment.

Emerging Values: A Key to Investment Success

Out of the cultural fire of the ’60’s has come a third coherent worldview embodied in a group Ray and Anderson refer to as Cultural Creatives. The backbone of the new economy, this group represents approximately 33% of the population and includes 100 million Americans with a median age of 42. They tend to be more altruistic and idealistic. Cultural Creatives have strong psychological and spiritual interests, and a concern that their inner life be linked to social activism. They place a high value on environmental concerns springing from a belief that nature is sacred. They also place a high value on relationships and not surprisingly a majority of them are women.

What has taken Wall Street by surprise is the desire by Cultural Creatives to invest their money consistent with their values. While the Traditionalists were some of the first pioneers in exercising avoidance screening for the so called “Sin Stocks”, Modernists by and large have not asked for this from their money management service providers. What is encouraging about the emerging Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) movement is the degree of independence it has because of its grass roots origin. SRI originated with like-minded individuals who had the courage to act on the vision of a collective Cultural Creative idea driven by the ideals of an environmentally responsible, just and free society. The key in realizing the impact of this idea is the recognition that our investment dollars have creative power in shaping a more just and environmentally responsible society.

Lest you feel alone in your version of the Cultural Creative experience, already the SRI movement has expanded the idea of values based-investing to include portfolio environmental, social and global (ESG) screening, shareholder activism and community investing, strategies that just 30 years ago were barely practiced. Today, the US Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment estimates that 11% of the US investment marketplace, or $3.47 trillion1, is at work under the SRI banner.

As the information economy gallops forward it is likely that this investment trend will continue to grow in its effectiveness – one person at a time. Let us hope you are the next to join.


1US SIF – http://ussif.org/sribasics

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Nothing in this website should be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Such recommendations can only be made after personal consultation. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. While some studies suggest that socially responsible investing may perform as well or better than conventional investing, some other studies suggest that by reducing available investment choices, socially responsible investing strategies may entail higher risks or lower returns than comparable non-SRI investing strategies.

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