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Small Big Spenders

They may have a common currency, but when it comes to spending, young people behave differently in countries across Europe, as a recent study compiled by the University of Bonn shows.


Shopping is a leisure activity for Europe's youth

Young people are becoming increasingly important for the European economy. In Germany alone they have 5 billion euros to spend, and industry and trade have long recognized the potential in these young big spenders.

Researchers at Bonn University have now taken a closer look at the differences in consumption and shopping among young people in all 15 European Union member states.

North-south divide

The study, which took more than five years to complete, shows who and what influences young people to increase or reduce spending, and that these factors differ strongly in the various parts of Europe.

According to Julia Fauth, director of the project, "there are parents and the family, other youngsters, the school and the media." In the more southern countries the ideas of morals and virtue still play an important role, which means the family comes first, she explains, and this again has a large influence on young peoples' spending behavior.

Here, parents still have a large say in what their children choose to buy, while further north, including Germany, the opinion of other youngsters, friends and fellow pupils still has the greatest influence on teenage shoppers.

Spending increase

The study also showed that girls tend to heed their parents' advice more than boys, and that boys prefer to consult the Internet and the media before they decide to purchase something.

In addition, the report revealed a general increase in spending among young people in Europe, not least due to new, trendy gadgets such as mobile phones which five years ago were unthinkable for most ten-year-olds, and are now a must among even younger children. In addition, the Internet has pushed up costs, with small children across Europe already well accustomed to computers and the net.

But Fauth is skeptical: "I found this (the increase in spending) somehow alarming," she says. In addition, she was concerned with the way young Europeans dealt with important issues such as the environment.

"The other thing which really moved me was that environmental topics proved much less important to them, and that the environment was dealt with less at school than five years ago." Many teenagers are simply more concerned with style and the price of a jacket than whether it is environmentally-friendly,” she says.

Credit card companies interested

The study, which was compiled by Bonn University, took more than five years to complete. During this time, Fauth sent questionnaires to schools across Europe. Some 11,000 teenagers replied, around 500 from each European member state.

In addition, Fauth had the financial backing from a large credit card company, which sponsored the whole project over the years.

"For the credit card company it is of course especially interesting to see in which countries, and how early particular groups can be targeted." Fauth says. In Germany, children start making decisions over money very early. In Italy, however, a credit card's target group begins far later, at the earliest at the age of 30.