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Veblen Effects in a Theory of Conspicuous Consumption

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  • Bagwell, Laurie Simon
  • Bernheim, B Douglas

Abstract

The authors examine conditions under which 'Veblen effects' arise from the desire to achieve social status by signaling wealth through conspicuous consumption. While Veblen effects cannot ordinarily arise when preferences satisfy a 'single-crossing property,' they may emerge when this property fails. In that case, 'budget' brands are priced at marginal cost, while 'luxury' brands, though not intrinsically superior, are sold at higher prices to consumers seeking to advertise wealth. Luxury brands earn strictly positive profits under conditions that would, with standard formulations of preferences, yield marginal-cost pricing. The authors explore factors that induce Veblen effects and they investigate policy implications. Copyright 1996 by American Economic Association.

Suggested Citation

  • Bagwell, Laurie Simon & Bernheim, B Douglas, 1996. "Veblen Effects in a Theory of Conspicuous Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 349-373, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:86:y:1996:i:3:p:349-73
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