Iowa Measurement and Research Foundation Project Summary

Respectfully Submitted by William Ming Liu, Ph.D.
Professor, Psychological and Quantitative Foundations
Counseling Psychology Program

Project Title: The College Student Spending Measure

The purpose of the project is to develop a measure based on the extant empirical literature that suggests that individuals tend to spend money as a means to modify their emotional states. College students are especially vulnerable to problematic spending because of the various pressures they may experience as they try to become affiliated with their peer group and to “fit in” to college. This measure is the first of its kind to be developed and we believe it is close to becoming ready for wide use.

The initial steps of the research involved the research team reviewing relevant literature and theorizing six domains relevant to the purpose of the scale. Members of the team (the principle investigator, the research assistant, and other doctoral students) generated and refined an initial pool of 113 items, which were representative of the domains. The team also created a further ten items for collecting demographic information. These items were converted to an online survey.

After receiving IRB approval, recruitment for the first round of data collection was done by distributing information sheets in educational psychology classes. Initially 208 participants provided responses to the initial pool of items. Where data was missing, some cases were removed and some data was imputed. An exploratory factor analysis was then conducted on this data. Examination of scree plots, and cutoffs of eigenvalues greater than 1.0 were used to determine the number of factors to be extracted. The factors were then rotated using a Promax rotation. After eliminating items that did not load well or were redundant, three primary factors were retained and these three factors became the basis of the three scales in the College Student Spending Measure. These three factors accounted for 40% of the total variance of the data. These scales were then refined according to content and reliability analysis of the constituent items, resulting in 33 items remaining across the three scales. These scales were named and operationalized based on the analysis of their content. The three scales appear to measure (reliability estimates for the first sample are in parentheses): 1) the use of spending to regulate ones affect (alpha = .93), 2) the use of spending to connect with one’s peers (alpha = .90), 3) impulsive spending (alpha = .84).

A second round of data was collected using these 33 items, which were converted into an online survey. Access to this survey was distributed across the University of Iowa email service. 866 responses were collected and cases with substantial missing data were removed. Reliability estimates were obtained for this new set of responses. The items were refined further based on these reliability estimates and analysis of the item content. Please see attached for the current iteration of the College Student Spending Measure.

In 2014, we presented the initial development of the measure at the American Psychological Association Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. (See reference below). At present, the research team intends to keep working to establish the validity of the instrument as a measure of how affect regulation and peer connection relate to student spending. Further validation will include convergent and divergent validity studies. We intend to complete the validation studies this Spring semester (2015) and we will move toward publication of the measure this Summer 2015.

Loh, Y., Rice, A., & Liu, W.M. (2014, August). College student spending measure. Poster session presented at the 122nd Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C.

Scale 1 - Spending to feel better

  • I spend money when I cannot tolerate feeling down (2)
  • When I am feeling down my first impulse is to buy things (8)
  • I will spend whatever it takes to feel better (11)
  • I spend money when I feel hurt (9)
  • When I feel down I am more likely to buy things (6)
  • When I feel bad I try to feel better by spending money (7)
  • When I’m feeling overwhelmed I feel a need to spend money on life changes (10)
  • Spending money on me helps me avoid thinking about my problems (6)
  • When I feel lonely I am more likely to buy things (3)
  • I feel most at peace when I am by lots of places to shop (5)

Scale 2 - Spending to Socially Connect with Others

  • If I have nice things I am more likely to be popular (16)
  • I often spend money on items that will help me to fit in (8)
  • It is important for me to have the possessions that my peers have (8)
  • If I own expensive things people will feel more positively towards me (5)
  • To fit in I have to spend on certain experiences. (13)
  • I am more likely to buy things that are popular (18)
  • I am more likely to buy thing well respected people have (9)
  • If I am not up on the latest fashion others might think that I am boring. (10)
  • You can often judge a person by their possessions (14)
  • I often spend money on items that I hope will help me maintain friendships (12)
  • I consider what others will think when making purchases (15)
  • I purchase items to help me connect with others (2)
  • When I shop with my friends I tend to spend more than when I am shopping alone (16)

Scale 3 Spending Impulsively

  • I only shop when I have to (10)
  • It is easy for me to avoid buying something that I want (15)
  • I reward myself by buying things (11)
  • I don’t shop unless I am planning to buy something (14)
  • Sometimes I buy things I have no need for (2)
  • I don’t find myself purchasing products to boost my self-­‐esteem (20)
  • I often find myself coming up with justifications for purchases (18)
  • I tend to buy impulsively (12)
  • I enjoy shopping of any kind (1)
  • When I go shopping I only get the things that I planned (20)