مرکزی صفحہ Energy Research & Social Science Like parent, like child: Intergenerational transmission of energy consumption practices in Denmark

Like parent, like child: Intergenerational transmission of energy consumption practices in Denmark

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جلد:
61
زبان:
english
رسالہ:
Energy Research & Social Science
DOI:
10.1016/j.erss.2019.101341
Date:
March, 2020
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Energy Research & Social Science 61 (2020) 101341

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Energy Research & Social Science
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/erss

Original research article

Like parent, like child: Intergenerational transmission of energy
consumption practices in Denmark

T

Anders Rhiger Hansen , Mette Hove Jacobsen
⁎

Danish Building Research Institute, Aalborg University Copenhagen, A.C. Meyers Vænge 15, 2450 København SV, Denmark

ARTICLE INFO

ABSTRACT

Keywords:
Sustainable consumption
Practice theory
Cultural reproduction
Intergenerational transmission
Family relations
Energy consumption

In this article, we investigate the intergenerational transmission of sustainable consumption practices. Whereas
previous studies have used self-reported attitudes and behaviour, this study uses data on actual energy consumption for space-heating and hot water combined with extensive panel data from Danish administrative
registers. The paper shows significant intergenerational correlations between the energy consumption patterns
of adults and their mothers, also when controlling for the energy consumption of the mother-in-law, where
possible. Furthermore, it shows that the intergenerational correlation is slightly stronger for adults with lower
income levels. These results suggest that energy consumption practices are shared and reproduced within the
family. Following theories of practice, the intergenerational similarities in energy consumption practices refer to
bodily learned practices that are indirectly transmitted and negotiated through family relations. In this way,
these findings also contribute to a better understanding of how practical understanding regarding how to perform practices is transmitted within more ordinary aspects of consumption that play a less obvious role in
distinction. To ensure more sustainable consumption practices in the future, this paper points to the importance
of the role of family relations and the transmission of embodied practices.

1. Introd; uction
Research within the environmental domain has argued for the importance of family relations in passing on sustainable consumption
practices from one generation to another. Empirically, researchers have
found positive correlations in pro-environmental behaviour [1,2] as
well as in environmental attitudes and concerns [3–5] between children
and parents. This research has focused on how values and the related
attitudes are consciously available and explicitly transmitted and
shared across generations. However, this type of research has received
criticism for its general theory of actions by an emerging field of sociological research on sustainable consumption. It has been accused of
emphasising individual agency and reflexivity and thereby obscuring
the importance of habits and embodied procedures [6,7]. The framing
of the consumer that underpins most of this research focuses on the
individual for behavioural change and responses to the sustainability
problem are often to influence the individual to make different choices
by changing or reframing the values and attitudes of the consumers [8].
However, the relationship between values, knowledge, and behaviour
has not been found to be straightforward, and people who espouse
green values or intentions do not always act pro-environmentally
[9–11].
⁎

This article considers the above criticism of the focus on individual
behaviour and makes three contributions to the existing research on
intergenerational transmission of sustainable consumption practices.
First, in the analysis, we use data on metered energy consumption
(space-heating and hot water). Hence, in contrast to previous studies on
self-reported behaviour and values based on surveys or qualitative interviews, we use actual consumption registered by utilities to study
intergenerational correlations in practice. In light of the gap between
values and actions, focusing on the actual consumption rather than selfstated behaviours, attitudes, and values seems crucial to support development towards more sustainable consumption practices. Few existing studies have focused on energy consumption practices rather than
individual behaviour, values, or attitudes. These studies suggest that
family relations play an important role in reproducing sustainable
consumption practices [12,13]. However, these studies do not directly
investigate intergenerational transmission of practices, and the correlation between consumption patterns of parents and their children has
not yet been investigated using quantitative methods and data within
this research area.
The second contribution is that we analyse intergenerational correlations over a longer period. Where most previous studies use crosssectional data collected at one point in time, the data used in this article

Corresponding author.
E-mail address: arh@sbi.aau.dk (A.R. Hansen).

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2019.101341
Received 27 February 2019; Received in revised form 24 October 2019; Accepted 28 October 2019
2214-6296/ © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Energy Research & Social Science 61 (2020) 101341

A.R. Hansen and M.H. Jacobsen

are from a large panel dataset from 2010 to 2015 with 128,472 adults
and their parents. The panel structure enables the analysis of both crosssectional correlations (between effects) and correlations in consumption patterns over time (within effects).
The third contribution is that the extensiveness of the data enables
us to control for more measures of background variables than most
previous studies (e.g. to control for the effect of in-laws). Furthermore,
as the intergenerational similarities in energy consumption practices
might interact with the transmission of economic resources, we investigate whether the correlation between the energy consumption of
adults and their parents depend on the income of the adult. Finally, the
extensiveness of the data enables us to control for a range of variables,
including indicators of building energy performance, household composition, and sociodemographic characteristics.
Theoretically, the paper draws on Bourdieu's theory of cultural reproduction, which emphasises the embodiment of practical understanding of how to act (i.e. habitus) and how such understanding is
transmitted unconsciously through practice and bodily experience, for
example by pointing at the way children mimic other people's actions
[14–16]. This theory provides a popular framework for understanding
the mechanisms of transmission of practices across generations (e.g. see
Bourdieu (1973) [17]) and has been widely applied and tested in empirical sociological research [18–20].
Household energy consumption constitutes almost 30% of the total
energy use in Denmark, and 84% of this is used for space-heating and
domestic hot water [21]. In 2016, Denmark had the third-highest percapita final energy consumption in the household sector among European countries, and despite efforts, this has only reduced by 5% from
2005 to 2016 [22]. Therefore, Denmark appears to be a relevant case
for investigating the continuity of energy consumption patterns.
The paper starts by introducing a conceptual framework that focuses on socially organised practices rather than individual behaviour.
This section is followed by a brief presentation of Bourdieu's theory of
cultural reproduction and the mechanisms of intergenerational transmission of practices. Then, we present the data on the material and
methodological approach of this study. Finally, we present the results of
the regression models showing intergenerational correlations of consumption patterns and conclude that family relations are important in
understanding how sustainable consumption practices are reproduced.

[28–34] and the use or possession of appliances [35,36]. This line of
consumption research has been particularly inspired by what has come
to be known as the `practice turn' in contemporary theory [37], and
theories of practice have had a significant influence on sociological
accounts of consumption in trying to understand and explain the normalisation of the standards and norms of, for example, cleanliness and
convenience and how they change (e.g. [38, 39]).
Inspired by science and technology studies (STS) and the actornetwork theory (ANT) (e.g. see [40–42]), the sociology of sustainable
consumption has particularly focused on studying how infrastructure
and material entities co-evolve with standards and norms. In this sense,
material entities act as resources that enable and constrain the characteristics of a practice [44]. The engagement with theories of practice
(and the influence of STS and ANT) has resulted in an emphasis on the
role of material artefacts and infrastructure in producing and reproducing shared understanding of appropriate conduct [36,43,45],
where the role of individuals or practitioners is approached as carriers
of practice [46]. For example, the focus is on how technology and infrastructure shape social practices through reconfiguring conventions
and understanding [38,47]. Alternatively, practical understanding
embodied in humans and transmitted through the interaction between
individuals has not received similar attention (for a similar argument,
see [43,45]).
Consequently, within the sociology of sustainable consumption,
little empirical attention has been given to embodied practical understanding shared and reproduced through social relations (e.g. within
family relations). Drawing on other sociological fields, such as food
consumption [e.g. 48], a stronger focus on the role of social relations
might provide better insight into class distinction and differentiation
related to the performance of practices and its importance in the reproduction of practices.
1.2. Transmission of practical understanding
A central assumption for practice theorists, in general, is that
knowledge in the form of practical understanding is shared through the
performance of socially and materially mediated practices. People can
(and routinely do) acquire other people's practical understanding
through practice [49–52]. Bourdieu's theory of cultural reproduction
provides a theoretical framework for understanding how practical understanding becomes embodied and transmitted from person to person,
and accordingly, how cultural reproduction is an important mechanism
through which practices are reproduced. In the process of transmitting
practical skills and, consequently, shared practices across generations,
the unconscious imitation of the bodily actions of others plays a crucial
role [16], as it begins in infancy and continues throughout life [14,15].
Following this, people are enrolled in certain practices and presuppositions regarding the goals and meanings of social action in the
course of routine interactions, and these practices and presuppositions
are thereby transmitted from one agent to another.
Bourdieu's theory has been widely applied and tested in empirical
sociological research within studies of social reproduction and social
stratification (e.g. [53–56]). These appropriations of Bourdieu's theory
of cultural reproduction seem to focus on culture or the understandings
of appropriate conduct as an individual resource that parents pass on to
their children to help them to achieve success. Another group of literature employing Bourdieu's theory of cultural reproduction is the
study of the consequences of class-related tastes and lifestyles for social
reproduction [18,57–62] and for distinction [18,19,63]. These studies
see culture as a symbolic resource that individuals can obtain and pass
on to others, and they focus on the engagement in consumption practices that plays an explicit role in social reproduction (for a review, see
Lizardo (2004) [20]). Both groups of literature seem to have the underlying assumption that cultural reproduction plays a role in social
class reproduction to strategically obtain a specific position in society
and, thus, in how the culture of the dominant class is reproduced

1.1. Consumption as socially organised practices
Resources such as food, energy, goods, and services that are used in
everyday life have a negative environmental effect, and it is widely
acknowledged that a better understanding of patterns of such everyday
consumption is important to reduce the negative effects on the environment [23]. In response, a great number of researchers across
disciplines have suggested mechanisms that drive consumption in
particular directions. Geels et al. (2015) [24] presented two dominant
positions within the field of sustainable consumption and production:
the reformist, focusing on changing individual behaviour, and the revolutionary, focusing on transforming societal `deep structures'. Arising
partly as a critique of the above assumptions, a line of sociological
studies of sustainable consumption has emerged, drawing attention to
the sociological mechanisms that underpin the dynamics of everyday
practices [25]. Geels et al. (2015) [24] advocated the reconfiguration
position, with the basic assumption that `consumption occurs as items
are appropriated in the course of engaging in particular practices' [26].
This line of research has challenged the framing of the consumer as
autonomous and making deliberate choices and, instead, has emphasised the social, collective, and habitual character of human conduct.
Thus, resource consumption, such as water and energy consumption, is
consumed in the course of accomplishing everyday practices organised
around shared knowledge and practical understanding [26,27]. This
has inspired empirical studies of consumption within the research area
of sustainability to examine practices such as heating and cooling
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A.R. Hansen and M.H. Jacobsen

through the educational system [64] and through taste [65]. Hence,
sociological literature on cultural reproduction has primarily focused
on the social consequences of being able to show given acts of cultural
appropriation (for a similar argument, see [66]). In contrast, the focus
of this article is on the social origin of practical understanding and
embodied knowledge transmitted within aspects of consumption that
play a less obvious role in distinction.
Empirically, cultural reproduction has been addressed in different
ways within sociological research of sustainable consumption practices.
Butler et al. (2014) [12] studied how energy consumption practices
relate to socially reproduced notions of child-caring and family life and
how these notions are subject to intergenerational tension and conflicts.
This suggests that the apparent intergenerational reproduction of notions also has an element of (symbolic) negotiation between parent and
child over appropriate ways of acting. Hansen (2018) [67] showed how
the social surroundings in childhood affect later energy consumption
patterns, which suggests that the understanding of how to perform
energy consumption practices is embodied and `carried' across time and
space. However, what is the role of family relations in the reproduction
of energy consumption practices? This needs further investigation, and
in this paper, we contribute to that by investigating correlations between the energy consumption patterns of adults and their mothers.

information on annual energy consumption is delivered by heating
suppliers and is used to calculate consumer payments, and the information on disposable income is used for tax assessments. This presumably provides more accurate energy consumption data than selfreported data. However, administrative registers also have the disadvantage of including unlikely values (e.g. extreme amounts of energy
used by one household). Therefore, we had to carefully detect and remove these.
2.2. Outcome and explanatory variables
The outcome variable is the annual energy consumption (kWh) for
space-heating and domestic hot water of households divided by the
heated area of the house (m2) and then log-transformed. This consumption refers to a variety of household activities and practices, such
as the routines of showering, cleaning, opening windows, and adjusting
radiator thermostats.
The explanatory variable is the energy consumption of the parent,
which is represented by the mother in the analysis. The models in the
analysis have been run with the consumption level of the father with
slightly lower yet similar estimates, and we have chosen to proceed
with the mother as representing the household. The slightly lower estimate of the father might relate to gender differences in everyday
practices and pro-environmental behaviour, where women tend to take
more (environmental) responsibility in everyday practices within the
domestic sphere [70,71]. However, further research is needed to support this. The energy consumption of the mother is constructed in the
same way as the outcome variable (log of kWh/m2). In addition, we
also use the energy consumption level of the mother-in-law.
The control variables cover a range of socioeconomic, household,
and house characteristics of the adult, the mother, and the mother-inlaw. These were chosen based on available information in the Danish
administrative registers and on the characteristics previous studies on
household energy consumption for space-heating have found.
Previous studies show that income [30,68,72], age [69], and educational level [30] correlate with household energy consumption. In
this study, the educational level is measured by three categories indicating the length of the highest attained education. These are primary
schooling, secondary schooling, and university. Disposable income is
personal disposable income after taxes. Moreover, studies have found
gender differences in comfort expectations and preferences [73–75].
Gender was therefore also added as a control variable.
Household information includes whether there are children living in
the household and the number of occupants, which is also found to
correlate with household energy consumption [30,68,72]. Finally, a
range of building characteristics, such as floor area, attic floor [68],
construction year, and heating source, are important determinants of
household energy consumption [30,72]. Therefore, the building characteristics include the heating source (district heating or natural gas),
basement, attic floor, and building year, which are divided into seven
periods reflecting major developments in building regulations in Denmark regarding energy efficiency.
In addition, area effects are included using municipality registration. The area effects relate to three factors: first, socio-spatial variation, such as similarities in social status and practical understanding
between neighbours; second, weather and climate variation, which is
assumed to be very low in a small country like Denmark; and third,
variation between heat suppliers, such as various price levels and price
structures. Together, the above control variables account for socioeconomic, household, building characteristics, and area effects for both
the adult and parent. Descriptive statistics for all variables are found in
Appendix I.

2. Methods
2.1. Data and variables
We use an unbalanced panel data from the Danish administrative
registers covering the years from 2010 to 2015. The panel data are
unbalanced, which means that some individuals do not have registrations of energy consumption for all years. The data include information
on annual energy consumption (kWh), referring to energy used for
space-heating and hot water, and information on households and
houses.
To identify only one meter for every household, the sample consists
of adults living in single-family detached houses in Denmark. As the
data on the consumption of natural gas or district heating are considered more valid than, for example, the consumption of oil, houses
supplied with either natural gas or district heating have been selected.i
The adults were restricted to not sharing a house with their parents or
other families. To focus on `cultural' variation rather than `material'
variation, we removed adults who had moved in the period from 2010
to 2015. We also removed adults with only one observation in the
panel. To avoid serial correlations, one adult from each household was
removed, and these individuals were randomly selected. Finally, to
avoid bias from extreme and unlikely values, we removed houses with a
heated area under 20 m2 and over 300 m2 as well as the highest and
lowest percentages of household energy consumption. The final sample
consisted of 128,472 adults that we were able to match with their
parents. Although the selection process may have led to some sampling
bias, the sample is representative of different regions and socioeconomic groups in Denmark (see Appendix I).
To identify parents and control for individual characteristics, we use
individuals as the unit of empirical analysis instead of households.
However, as annual energy consumption is measured at the household
level, we control for household characteristics, such as the number of
occupants. These characteristics were chosen based on previous research aiming at explaining variation in household energy consumption
[e.g. 30,68,69].
Using the Danish administrative data has several advantages. First,
the level of detail of the variables is high. Second, the data are extensive, as the register covers the full population of Denmark, which
also adds some consistency to the data across years and gives opportunities to control for other factors and to investigate heterogeneous
effects. Third, despite the removal of extreme values, we consider the
validity and reliability of the data to be high. For example, the

2.3. Methodology
In this section, we present the method used to estimate the
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A.R. Hansen and M.H. Jacobsen

intergenerational correlation between energy consumption patterns of
adults and their parents. We begin by estimating a baseline ordinary
least squares (OLS) regression model using pooled panel data. The
baseline OLS model states that the household energy consumption of
adults (ACi) depends on the household energy consumption of the
parent (β1MCi) (here represented by the mother), on sociodemographic,
household, and house characteristics (β2xi) and area and year effects.
This can be written as follows:

ACi =

+

1 MCi

+

2 xi

+

0 year

+

0 areai

3. Results
The empirical results are presented in three steps. First, we present
the results of the baseline OLS model and the FE panel model including
control variables (Models 1 and 2). Second, we present the results of the
models including an interaction effect between the adult's income and
the mother's energy consumption to investigate whether the effect of
the mother's energy consumption differs across income levels (Models 3
and 4). Third, we present the results of the models, adding the energy
consumption of the mother-in-law (Models 5 and 6). Full models with
all control variables can be found in Appendix II.

(1)

+ ui ,

where ACi denotes the logarithm of consumption of energy for spaceheating and hot water (kWh/m2) of the adult i (i = 1, …, N). In addition, δ0 controls for year effects, such as weather and price trends, and
γ0area controls for area effects, such as variations in sociodemographic
factors, in weather and climate across Denmark, and in heat suppliers.
The vector x contains all the control variables of the adult and parent.
Finally, ui is a normally distributed error term that contains the effect of
all unobserved variables that affect the adult's energy consumption. As
it is a log-log model, where the outcome variable and explanatory
variable are log-transformed, β1 (1) is interpreted as the elasticity of
energy consumption of the adults with respect to the energy consumption of the parent [76]. A Q-Q plot test was performed, which
showed that the log-log model takes better account of extreme values.
Since, it is unlikely that an OLS regression model will account for all
confounding factors influencing the correlation, even after including
relevant control variables, we employ a fixed-effect panel model (FE).
An example of unobservable factors that are not considered in the OLS
regression model could be energy efficiency improvements done to the
house. Such improvements can have a great influence on the energy
demand of the house and might not be controlled adequately in the OLS
model. Another example could be the personal relationship between
adults and their parents.
Applying an FE model addresses the problem with omitted variable
bias by controlling for time-constant unobserved factors and reduces
the risk of unobserved confounding factors. The FE model exploits the
panel structure of the data by estimating the correlation between consumption patterns over time as opposed to the correlation between
consumption levels in the OLS model. Year dummies are also included
in the FE model, as T is small relative to N [76]. The year dummies are
included to account for the `natural' variation across years (e.g. due to
weather variations causing long or short heating seasons). As a starting
point for the transformation towards the FE estimation, we let the intercept (α) vary over individuals (i):

ACit =

i

+

1 MCit

+

2 x it

+

0 yeart

3.1. Intergenerational correlation of energy consumption
Both Models 1 (OLS) and 2 (FE) show significant correlations between the consumption of the adult and mother. Interpreted as elasticity, the OLS model shows that, for a 1% increase in the consumption
level of the parent, the consumption level of the adult offspring will
increase on average by 0.145%. The correlation of the OLS means that,
if the energy consumption level of the parent is high, the consumption
level of the adult offspring is also likely to be high.
However, although the OLS model includes a list of control variables on socioeconomic, household, and building characteristics, it is
unlikely that all influential factors have been accounted for. As the FE
model relies on variation in energy consumption within individuals
across years, such unobserved variation between individuals is controlled. This means that we investigate the similarities in the pattern
across years for the adult and mother.
The results of the FE model (Model 2) in Table 1 show a similar
significant correlation of 0.147 between the energy consumption patterns across years of the adult and parent, even after controlling for
relevant individual and household characteristics. This estimate is
equal to the one in the empty FE model without any control variables,
but with year dummies (not shown here). This means that the changes
in individual and household characteristics across years have little influence on the correlation between the consumption patterns of the
adults and their mothers.
3.2. Interaction between energy consumption and income
To investigate whether the intergenerational correlation vary across
levels of economic resources, we include an interaction effect between
the mother's energy consumption and income of the adult. Model 3
(OLS) and Model 4 (FE) both show a significantly negative interaction
term, which suggests that income moderates the intergenerational
correlation in a negative direction, meaning that the intergenerational
correlation is stronger for adults with lower income. The interaction
models also show how the estimate of the intergenerational correlation
increase substantially from 0.145 to 0.613 in the OLS models and from
0.147 to 0.520 in the FE models. However, the interpretation of this
main estimate of mother's energy consumption becomes misleading as
it refers to the case where income level is zero. To facilitate the interpretation of the interaction effects, Fig. 1 graphs the intergenerational
correlation estimate at different levels of income in a marginal effects
plot for the OLS model (Model 3), which is almost similar to the FE
model (Model 4). To avoid obtaining unstable values, we display at
different percentiles of income.
The marginal effects plots of the interaction between mother's energy consumption and income in Fig. 1 support the result from the
models showing stronger estimates for lower income levels and weaker
estimates for higher income levels, which indicates that the intergenerational correlation of energy consumption depend on the income
level of the adult. However, it also suggests that the main estimates of
mother's consumption found in Model 3 and 4 were extreme cases.

(2)

+ uit .

However, because we want to eliminate (rather than to estimate)
the individual intercept (αi), we take the average of the individuals (i)
over the period (t):

ACi =

i

+

1 MCi

+

2 x¯ i

(3)

+ u¯ i.

Then, we subtract the individual regression (3) from (2) to obtain a
model in which the (individual) intercept (αi) is eliminated:

ACit

ACi =

1 (MCit

MCi) +

2 (x it

x¯i) + uit

u¯ i .

(4)

In Eq. (4), the αi estimate disappears, which means that the between-individual variation is now fixed, and β1 estimates the `within'
individual variation (across years). This means that the FE model (4) is
conceptually considered an OLS model, which includes a dummy for
each individual.ii
Furthermore, we include an interaction term between the mother's
energy consumption and the adult's income to investigate whether the
effect of the mother's energy consumption depends on the income of the
adult. Finally, because energy consumption is measured at the household level, we also estimated a model for the energy consumption of the
mother-in-law in the cases where the adult has a partner.
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A.R. Hansen and M.H. Jacobsen

Table 1
Summary of the results from the OLS and fixed-effects (FE) panel models on the correlation between the log of energy consumption for space-heating and hot water
(kWh/m2) between adults, mothers, and mothers-in-law. The energy consumption of mothers and mothers-in-law is in the log of kWh/m2.
Only the mother

Including interactions

Including mother-in-law

Models

1: OLS

2: FE

3: OLS

4: FE

5: OLS

6: FE

Mothers' energy consumption (log)
Income (log)
Mothers' energy consumption (log) * Income (log)
Mothers'-in-law energy consumption (log)
Controls adult
Controls mother
Controls mother-in-law
Year effects
No. of observations
No. of individuals
Average obs. per group
ICC
Adjusted R2
Mean VIFi

0.145*** (0.002)
0.008*** (0.001)

0.147*** (0.002)
0.003 (0.002)

0.613*** (0.041)
0.185*** (0.016)
−0.037*** (0.003)

0.520*** (0.051)
0.143*** (0.019)
−0.030*** (0.004)

X
X

X
X

X
X

X
X

X
494,215

X
565,401
128,472
4.4
0.71
0.12

X
494,215

X
565,401
128,472
4.4
0.71
0.12

0.584*** (0.076)
0.183*** (0.029)
−0.037*** (0.006)
0.089*** (0.003)
X
X
X
X
132,450

0.480*** (0.099)
0.133*** (0.037)
−0.028*** (0.008)
0.092*** (0.004)
X
X
X
X
159,759
41,745
3.8
0.73
0.13

0.28
2.01

0.28
2.02

0.30
2.01

Note: *** p < .01, ** p < .05, * p < .1.
Robust standard errors in parentheses. See the full table in Appendix II. ICC stands for Intra Class Correlation.
i
Mean VIF (Variance Inflastion Factor) calculated without area effects and interaction effects.

3.3. Correlation with energy consumption of the mother-in-law

stronger for adults with lower income levels. This indicates that the
intergenerational transmission of energy consumption practices depend
on the economic resources of the adult. The results also show a correlation with the energy consumption of the mother-in-law, which illustrates that several family relations are important in order to understand
energy consumption practices. The role of economic resources and the
relation to the intergenerational transmission of economic resources
could be an area for further investigation. Further research might also
explore the gender dimension of the intergenerational transmission of
energy practices, for example related to gender roles in the performance
of everyday practices.
The analysis contributes to the existing literature on intergenerational similarities in sustainable consumption practices in several ways.
Existing cross-sectional studies find intergenerational similarities in
environmental behaviours and attitudes. However, where previous
studies used self-reported attitudes and behaviour, we found intergenerational similarities in the actual energy consumed. Our results
suggest that energy consumption practices are shared and reproduced
across generations within the family. According to theories of practice,
a possible explanation for this is that the reproduction of a different
understanding of appropriate conduct is not simply a matter of transmitting consciously available attitudes and behaviour but is rather a
matter of socially shared and bodily learned practices that are indirectly
transmitted and negotiated (e.g. through family relations). Energy
consumption practices have a strong embodied element, where practices become incorporated in human bodies. Referring to Bourdieu's

In households with more occupants, household energy consumption
is the result of the total activities of occupants in the household.
Therefore, for those adults with a partner, we included the energy
consumption of the mother of the partner (here called the mother-inlaw) in Models 5 (OLS) and 6 (FE). These two models are based on a
lower number of observations than Models 1 to 4. Overall, Models 5
and 6 show that the correlation between the energy consumption of the
adult and mother is slightly weaker but still highly significant when
controlling for the energy consumption level of the mother-in-law.
Moreover, it shows a significant correlation with the energy consumption level of the mother-in-law when examining both the between
effect (Model 5) and the within effect (Model 6). These results indicate
that, in Models 1 to 4, the partner moderates the correlation between
the adult and mother in the cases where the adult lives with a partner.
4. Discussion
This study set out with the aim of assessing the importance of family
relations in the reproduction of sustainable consumption practices, and
more specifically, to investigate the intergenerational transmission of
energy consumption practices. Using the case of energy used for spaceheating and hot water by Danish households, the results clearly show
that the energy consumption patterns of adults correlate with that of
their mothers, and that the intergenerational correlation is slightly

Fig. 1. Change of intergenerational correlation effect
with increasing income of the adult child; Modelbased Marginal effects of mother's energy consumption on adult child's energy consumption conditioned
on income level of the adult child (Based on Model 4).
Note: All covariates are fixed at their means. The dotted
vertical reference lines on the x-axis display the percentiles of the interacted predictor.

5

Energy Research & Social Science 61 (2020) 101341

A.R. Hansen and M.H. Jacobsen

concept of habitus, Lizardo presented the embodied actor as the final
member of a triad alongside Bourdieu's concepts of fields and forms of
capital [20], which enables a stronger focus on cognitive agents [77]
and on the embodied practical understanding of how to act [43,78].
Considering energy consumption to be an indicator of ordinary everyday practices, this study might also support a stronger focus on
embodied aspects of the transmission of practices in studies of cultural
reproduction. Moreover, it illustrates how practical understanding and
embodied knowledge are also transmitted within ordinary aspects of
consumption that play a less obvious role in social class distinction.
Overall, the paper contributes to the existing literature with new
insight on how to understand the complexity of sustainable consumption by providing empirical clarity on how everyday consumption
practices reflect socially shared and embodied practices. This calls for a
stronger empirical focus on the role of the family as a central institution
in reproducing different sustainable consumption practices (e.g. related
to the use of energy).
From this study, it is not possible to make inference to the total
Danish population. However, taking the robustness of the results into
account as well as the well-documented theory of cultural reproduction,
we find it likely that intergenerational correlations of patterns of energy
consumption can be found in other contexts, for example, in other
cultures or national contexts and for other types of sustainable

consumption, such as electricity, water, and food. This, however, needs
further investigation.
The findings open a wide range of studies on the reproduction of
sustainable consumption practices (e.g. between peers, such as neighbours, colleagues, and friends, or other family relations, such as siblings, cousins, and grandparents) and on the relation to social mobility,
similar to the cases where children break the patterns of their parents
regarding education and social class. Such questions become important
in the context of wanting to change consumption patterns in a more
sustainable direction. If the aim is to change practices, then we need to
consider that individuals carry practices that are formed by their (embodied) history [67] (e.g. by being socialised into ways of acting
through childhood) and that these practices are bound to social relations (e.g. family relations). In general, this calls for more attention to
the sociological mechanisms that underpin the dynamics of everyday
practices and collective aspects of these practices, which is represented
in the reconfiguration of the position rather than the in the focus on
individual behavioural change [24].
Declaration of Competing Interest
None.

Supplementary materials
Supplementary material associated with this article can be found, in the online version, at doi:10.1016/j.erss.2019.101341.
Appendix I
Appendix 1. Descriptive statistics for the sample. Means and standard deviations for adults and their mothers. The number of observations is
128,472 for all variables.
Adult offspring

Consumption
Energy consumption for space-heating and hot water (kWh/m2)
Sociodemographic characteristics
Male
Age
Disposable income (in euros)
Highest attained education
Primary
Secondary
University
Household and building characteristics
Children in the household
Number of occupants in the household
Natural gas supply (opposed to district heating)
Building year
Before 1938
From 1938 to 1960
From 1961 to 1972
From 1973 to 1978
From 1979 to 1998
From 1999 to 2006
After 2006
Wood stove
Attic floor
Basement

Mother

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

121.3

44.1

121.6

43.0

0.50
41.3
39,784.4

7.8
31,234.3

67.2
23,024.6

8.4
37,740.6

0.10
0.47
0.44

0.43
0.38
0.19

0.70
3.34
0.37

0.01
1.83
0.33

0.20
0.16
0.23
0.13
0.13
0.08
0.06
0.20
0.35
0.31

0.15
0.13
0.38
0.19
0.11
0.04
0.01
0.16
0.25
0.27

6

Energy Research & Social Science 61 (2020) 101341

A.R. Hansen and M.H. Jacobsen

Appendix II
Full Table 1 with results from OLS and fixed-effects (FE) panel models on the correlation between the log of energy consumption for spaceheating and hot water (kWh/m2) between the adult, mother, and mother-in-law. The energy consumption of the mother and mother-in-law is also
the log of kWh/m2.
Only the mother

Including interactions

Including mother-in-law

Models

1: OLS

2: FE

3: OLS

4: FE

5: OLS

6: FE

Mothers' energy consumption (log)

0.145*** (0.002)

0.147*** (0.002)

0.520*** (0.051)

0.584*** (0.076)

0.480*** (0.099)

Income (log)

0.008*** (0.001)

0.003
(0.002)

0.613***
(0.041)
0.185***
(0.016)
−0.037***
(0.003)

0.143*** (0.019)

0.181***
(0.029)
−0.037*** (0.006)

0.133***
(0.037)
−0.028*** (0.008)

0.089***
(0.003)

0.092***
(0.004)

Mothers' energy consumption (log) * Income (log)
Mothers'-in-law energy consumption (log)
Control variables (main person)
Male

−0.010*** (0.001)

Age

−0.001** (0.001)

Age^2

0.000** (0.000)

Education (ref. `Primary')
Secondary

Ref.
0.011*** (0.002)

Ref.
−0.008 (0.011)

University

0.015*** (0.002)

−0.010 (0.013)

Children in household

0.028*** (0.002)

0.006*** (0.002)

Number of occupants

0.012*** (0.001)

Natural gas (1 = Yes)

0.001
(0.001)
0.040*** (0.002)

Construction year, 7 cat. (ref. `Before 1938′)
1938–1960

Ref.
0.013*** (0.002)

1961–1972

−0.123*** (0.002)

1973–1978

−0.204*** (0.002)

1979–1998

−0.297*** (0.002)

1999–2006

−0.345*** (0.003)

After 2006

−0.509*** (0.003)

Wood stove (1 = Yes)

−0.087*** (0.001)

Attic floor (1 = Yes)

−0.093*** (0.001)

Basement (1 = Yes)

0.162*** (0.002)

Area effect (municipality)
Control variables mother
Age

X

Income (log)
Education (ref. `Primary')
Secondary

0.000
(0.001)
Ref.
0.009*** (0.001)

University

0.004*** (0.002)

Children in household
Number of occupants

0.005
(0.006)
0.005*** (0.001)

Natural gas (1 = Yes)

−0.009*** (0.002)

Construction year, 7 cat. (ref. `Before 1938′)
1938–1960

Ref.
0.005** (0.002)

1961–1972

0.022*** (0.002)

1973–1978

0.034*** (0.002)

−0.001*** (0.000)
−0.004* (0.002)
Ref.
0.012
(0.027)
−0.012 (0.038)
0.027*** (0.009)
−0.003 (0.003)

7

−0.010***
(0.001)
−0.002**
(0.001)
0.000**
(0.000)
Ref.
0.011***
(0.002)
0.015***
(0.002)
0.028***
(0.002)
0.001
(0.001)
0.040***
(0.002)
Ref.
0.013***
(0.002)
−0.123***
(0.002)
−0.204***
(0.002)
−0.297***
(0.002)
−0.346***
(0.003)
−0.509***
(0.003)
−0.087***
(0.001)
−0.093***
(0.001)
0.163***
(0.002)
X
−0.001***
(0.000)
0.001
(0.001)
Ref.
0.009***
(0.001)
0.004***
(0.002)
0.005
(0.006)
0.005***
(0.001)
−0.009***
(0.002)
Ref.
0.005**
(0.002)
0.022***
(0.002)

−0.030*** (0.004)

−0.005*** (0.002)

Ref.
−0.008
(0.011)
−0.009
(0.013)
0.007*** (0.002)
0.012*** (0.001)

0.002
(0.002)
−0.000
(0.000)
Ref.
0.008* (0.004)

0.041*** (0.004)

Ref.
−0.005
(0.017)
−0.009
(0.020)
0.016*** (0.005)

−0.009*** (0.001)

0.006** (0.002)

0.014*** (0.004)

0.044*** (0.003)
Ref.
0.026*** (0.004)
−0.111*** (0.004)
−0.193*** (0.005)
−0.279*** (0.005)
−0.326*** (0.005)
−0.495*** (0.005)
−0.077*** (0.003)
−0.090*** (0.003)
0.165*** (0.003)
X
−0.001*** (0.000)
−0.004* (0.002)

0.004* (0.002)

−0.002 (0.003)

Ref.
0.012
(0.027)
−0.011
(0.038)
0.027*** (0.009)

Ref.
0.006** (0.002)

Ref.
−0.040
(0.051)
−0.051
(0.085)
0.035** (0.014)

−0.003
(0.003)

−0.001
(0.003)
0.001
(0.010)
0.002
(0.003)
−0.016*** (0.003)
Ref.
−0.003 (0.004)
0.022*** (0.004)
0.025*** (0.004)

−0.006
(0.005)

Energy Research & Social Science 61 (2020) 101341

A.R. Hansen and M.H. Jacobsen

1979–1998

0.046*** (0.003)

1999–2006

0.052*** (0.003)

After 2006

0.080*** (0.005)

Wood stove (1 = Yes)

0.008*** (0.001)

Attic floor (1 = Yes)

0.017*** (0.002)

Basement (1 = Yes)

−0.019*** (0.001)

Area effect (municipality)
Control variables mother-in-law
Age
Income (log)

X

0.034***
(0.002)
0.046***
(0.003)
0.052***
(0.003)
0.080***
(0.005)
0.008***
(0.001)
0.017***
(0.002)
−0.019***
(0.001)
X

0.037*** (0.005)
0.043*** (0.006)
0.077*** (0.008)
0.002
(0.003)
0.011*** (0.003)
−0.018*** (0.003)
X

Education (ref. `Primary')
Secondary

−0.000 (0.000)
0.003
(0.002)
Ref.
0.010*** (0.002)

University

0.009*** (0.003)

Children in the household

−0.001
(0.010)
0.009*** (0.003)

Number of occupants
Natural gas (1 = Yes)

Ref.
−0.100*** (0.001)

−0.004
(0.003)
Ref.
−0.010** (0.004)
0.005
(0.004)
0.002
(0.004)
0.017*** (0.005)
0.034*** (0.006)
0.041*** (0.008)
0.005* (0.003)
0.008*** (0.003)
−0.009*** (0.003)
X
Ref.
−0.087*** (0.004)

−0.048*** (0.001)

−0.040*** (0.003)

−0.041*** (0.002)

−0.077*** (0.001)

−0.065*** (0.003)

−0.066*** (0.003)

−0.201*** (0.002)

−0.175*** (0.004)

−0.174*** (0.003)

−0.142*** (0.002)

−0.127*** (0.004)

−0.127*** (0.003)

565,401
128,472
4.4
0.71
0.12

132,450

159,759
41,745
3.8
0.73
0.13

Construction year, 7 cat. (ref. `Before 1938′)
1938–1960
1961–1972
1973–1978
1979–1998
1999–2006
After 2006
Wood stove (1 = Yes)
Attic floor (1 = Yes)
Basement (1 = Yes)
Area effect (municipality)
Year dummies (Ref. `2010′)
2011

X
Ref.
−0.094*** (0.002)

Ref.
−0.100*** (0.001)

2012

−0.046*** (0.002)

−0.048*** (0.001)

2013

−0.074*** (0.002)

−0.077*** (0.001)

2014

−0.197*** (0.002)

−0.201*** (0.002)

2015

−0.139*** (0.002)

−0.142*** (0.002)

No. of observations
No. of individuals
Average obs. per group
ICC
Adjusted R2
Mean VIFi

494,215

565,401
128,472
4.4
0.71
0.12

0.28
2.01

X
Ref.
−0.094***
(0.002)
−0.046***
(0.002)
−0.074***
(0.002)
−0.197***
(0.002)
−0.139***
(0.002)
494,215

0.28
2.02

0.001
(0.003)
Ref.
−0.058
(0.050)
−0.048
(0.059)
0.005
(0.014)
−0.005
(0.005)

0.30
2.01

−0.084*** (0.002)

Note: *** p < .01, ** p < .05, * p < .1 . Robust standard errors in parentheses. ICC stands for Intra Class Correlation.
i
Mean VIF (Variance Inflastion Factor) calculated without area effects and interaction effects.

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