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Who sees what? Demographics and the visibility of consumer expenditures


  • Heffetz, Ori


A growing body of work on social phenomena (like status, peer effects, social comparisons and fashion) rests on assumptions regarding the social observability of consumption activities. The present paper provides new empirical evidence for assessing such assumptions. We analyze data from a unique visibility survey, designed to quantify the relative “cultural” visibility of different consumer expenditures among US households. We investigate the relationship between respondents’ demographics and the expenditures they perceive as visible. We discuss implications for existing and future work.

Suggested Citation

  • Heffetz, Ori, 2012. "Who sees what? Demographics and the visibility of consumer expenditures," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 801-818.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:33:y:2012:i:4:p:801-818 DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2012.02.005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Nikolai Roussanov, 2009. "Conspicuous Consumption and Race," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 425-467.
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    8. Jürgen Maurer & André Meier, 2008. "Smooth it Like the “Joneses?†Estimating Peer-Group Effects in Intertemporal Consumption Choice," MEA discussion paper series 08167, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
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    13. Ori Heffetz, 2011. "A Test of Conspicuous Consumption: Visibility and Income Elasticities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1101-1117, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:kap:reveho:v:15:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s11150-015-9306-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Hillesheim, Inga & Mechtel, Mario, 2013. "How much do others matter? Explaining positional concerns for different goods and personal characteristics," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 61-77.
    3. Evangelos V. Dioikitopoulos & Stephen J. Turnovsky & Roland Wendner, 2017. "Dynamic Status Effects, Savings, and Income Inequality," Graz Economics Papers 2017-08, University of Graz, Department of Economics.
    4. Clément Bellet, 2017. "Essays on Inequality, Social Preferences and Consumer Behavior," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/vbu6kd1s68o, Sciences Po.
    5. Tim Friehe & Mario Mechtel, 2017. "Gambling to leapfrog in status?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 15(4), pages 1291-1319, December.
    6. Clement Bellet, 2017. "The Paradox of the Joneses: Superstar Houses and Mortgage Frenzy in Suburban America," CEP Discussion Papers dp1462, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    7. Undurraga, Eduardo A. & Nica, Veronica & Zhang, Rebecca & Mensah, Irene C. & Godoy, Ricardo A., 2016. "Individual health and the visibility of village economic inequality: Longitudinal evidence from native Amazonians in Bolivia," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 18-26.
    8. Eve Sihra, 2017. "Consumption, Social Interactions and Preferences," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/1ej8deo44v9, Sciences Po.
    9. Bellet, Clement, 2017. "The paradox of the Joneses: superstar houses andmortgage frenzy in suburban America," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 69044, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item


    Expenditure visibility; Expenditure observability; Conspicuous consumption; Survey data;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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