Purpose Among Low-Income Youth Project

Abraham Maslow’s (1943) famous hierarchy of needs suggests that until individuals have secured basic necessities, such as food, shelter, and safety, they will not be motivated to achieve more growth-oriented aims, such as self-actualization. Based on this theory, we can infer that Maslow would expect individuals from low-resource backgrounds, who lack access to safe homes and reliable food stuffs, to be unmotivated to pursue something as self-actualizing as a purpose in life. At the same time, positive youth development scholars have argued that purpose and other indicators of thriving are available to all young people, including those from more challenging backgrounds (Benson, 2006; Lerner, 2004). 

Using a mixed-methods approach, this study explored the presence of purpose among a sample of youth from low-income backgrounds to determine (1) if young people in low-resource communities are inspired to pursue personally meaningful purposes in life at the same rate as youth from more middle-income backgrounds (results suggest they are). (2) Is purpose among youth from low-resourced communities associated with the same indicators of psychological and physical health as it is among youth from more highly resourced communities (results suggest that by and large it is), and, (3) does a low-resourced background influence the way these young people discover and pursue their purposes in life (results suggest it does)?

Principal Investigator: Dr. Kendall Cotton Bronk
Project Lead: Caleb Mitchell (Email)
Funder: HopeLab