Resilient personality of cities could help in a recession

September 29, 2015, Society for Personality and Social Psychology

In recent years, psychologists established that regions and cities differ in their prevalent personality make-up. The resilient personality of a city's residents could help determine whether cities bounce back or languish during a major recession, according to new research published in the peer-reviewed journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

In a large-scale two-country study that is the first of its kind, researchers examined whether the severity of the economic downturn of the 2008-09 depended on regional personality profiles. To this end researchers studied the of more than 1.3 million residents from more than 700 cities in the United States and regions in Great Britain. Cities fared better, with more businesses starting despite the recession, in places where residents displayed a more resilient personality, characterized by stronger and entrepreneurial personality profile. This entrepreneurial profile is defined as persons scoring at the same time higher on extraversion, openness to new experiences, emotional stability, and conscientiousness, and lower on agreeableness.

"Cities seem to respond quite differently to major economic shocks in terms of their economic behavior, and the personality of a region may play a critical role," said lead researcher Martin Obschonka, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Saarland University in Germany. "Much research on economic resilience has focused on regional economic infrastructure, but the entrepreneurial personality and emotional stability of a city's residents may be just as important in determining whether cities suffer or thrive during a recession."

The results varied widely across the 366 U.S. cities in the study: Parts of California, southern Florida, and the Mountain states generally had higher entrepreneurial personality and emotional stability scores and weathered the recession well. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif., had the highest score for entrepreneurial personality of the U.S. cities, while Elmira, NY, had the lowest score. For emotional stability, Jackson, Tenn. placed first while Michigan City-La Porte, Ind. ranked last.

Low emotional stability (or high neuroticism - the opposite of emotional stability) is characterized by anxiety, fear, envy and frustration. People high in emotional stability often respond to challenging situations, such as a recession, in a more positive, pro-active way than people low in emotional stability. The northern stretches of the East Coast, including New York City and Boston, bucked the trend found in the study by being more neurotic and less emotionally stable but still faring well during the recession.

In the U.S. cities, high regional scores for extraversion and low scores for agreeableness contributed to an entrepreneurial spirit, but that connection wasn't found in Great Britain. The researchers note that the study findings are correlational so that they cannot prove causal effects. Nevertheless, the researchers think that it is more likely that the regional personality affects the region's economic resilience than the other way around. "It probably would be difficult to boost a city's entrepreneurial personality and emotional stability because a city's personality is an ingrained element of local culture", Obschonka said. "Cities differ in their regional personality because of a wide range of patterns that have developed over decades or centuries, including formal and informal institutions such as local norms and attitudes that can't be changed overnight."

However, government economic programs could be tailored toward the specific personality of cities. "We may need to re-think the concept of regional economic resilience by considering the differences of cities instead of just focusing on infrastructure," Obschonka said.

Explore further: Where entrepreneurship is at home

Related Stories

Where entrepreneurship is at home

May 31, 2013
Entrepreneurship plays an important role for the prosperity of today's modern societies. Those who want to found a company under their own steam and who want to make it an economic success, need more than a good idea and ...

Personality outsmarts intelligence at school

December 17, 2014
Recent research at Griffith University has found that personality is more important than intelligence when it comes to success in education.

Friends' character insights contain clues to longevity

April 8, 2015
Your friends may know you better than you know yourself. Personality traits you display in your 20s hold clues to how long you'll live – and your friends can judge these traits better than you, researchers report in the ...

Research links premature birth to withdrawn personality

July 24, 2015
New research indicates that adults born very premature are more likely to be socially withdrawn and display signs of autism.

Study finds vast regional differences in personality within the UK

March 30, 2015
How exactly do we become the people we are? A study published earlier this week found that there are vast regional differences in personality within the UK.

Recommended for you

Study of learning and memory problems in OCD helps young people unlock potential at school

January 22, 2018
Adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have widespread learning and memory problems, according to research published today. The findings have already been used to assist adolescents with OCD obtain the help ...

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.