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Getting Ahead of the Joneses: When Equality Increases Conspicuous Consumption among Bottom-Tier Consumers

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  • Nailya Ordabayeva
  • Pierre Chandon

Abstract

It is widely believed that increasing the equality of material possessions or income in a social group should lead people at the bottom of the distribution to consume less and save more. However, this prediction and its causal mechanism have never been studied experimentally. Five studies show that greater equality increases the satisfaction of those in the lowest tier of the distribution because it reduces the possession gap between what they have and what others have. However, greater equality also increases the position gains derived from status-enhancing consumption, since it allows low-tier consumers to get ahead of the higher proportion of consumers clustered in the middle tiers. As a result, greater equality reduces consumption when consumers focus on the narrower possession gap, but it increases consumption when they focus on the greater position gains (i.e., when consumption is conspicuous, social competition goals are primed, and the environment is competitive).

Suggested Citation

  • Nailya Ordabayeva & Pierre Chandon, 2011. "Getting Ahead of the Joneses: When Equality Increases Conspicuous Consumption among Bottom-Tier Consumers," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(1), pages 27-41.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jconrs:doi:10.1086/658165
    DOI: 10.1086/658165
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    Cited by:

    1. Daria Greenberg & Elena Ehrensperger & Michael Schulte-Mecklenbeck & Wayne D. Hoyer & Z. John Zhang & Harley Krohmer, 2020. "The role of brand prominence and extravagance of product design in luxury brand building: What drives consumers’ preferences for loud versus quiet luxury?," Journal of Brand Management, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 27(2), pages 195-210, March.
    2. Yansong Hu & Christophe Van den Bulte, 2014. "Nonmonotonic Status Effects in New Product Adoption," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 33(4), pages 509-533, July.
    3. Jaspers, Esther, 2018. "Opening up on consumer materialism," Other publications TiSEM a21cb1c8-5af1-46cc-9ea0-a, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    4. Semaan, Rania W. & Lindsay, Val & Williams, Paul & Ashill, Nick, 2019. "The influence of gender roles in the drivers of luxury consumption for women: Insights from the gulf region," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 165-175.
    5. Cha, Moon-Kyung & Yi, Youjae & Lee, Jaehoon, 2020. "When people low in social class become a persuasive source of communication: Social class of other donors and charitable donations," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 45-55.
    6. Makkar, Marian & Yap, Sheau-Fen, 2018. "Emotional experiences behind the pursuit of inconspicuous luxury," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 222-234.
    7. Jaikumar, Saravana & Singh, Ramendra & Sarin, Ankur, 2018. "‘I show off, so I am well off’: Subjective economic well-being and conspicuous consumption in an emerging economy," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 386-393.
    8. Never, Babette & Albert, Jose Ramon & Fuhrmann, Hanna & Gsell, Sebastian & Jaramillo, Miguel & Kuhn, Sascha & Senadza, Bernardin, 2020. "Carbon consumption patterns of emerging middle classes," Discussion Papers 13/2020, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE).
    9. Youngseon Kim & Nikki Wingate, 2017. "Narrow, powerful, and public: the influence of brand breadth in the luxury market," Journal of Brand Management, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 24(5), pages 453-466, October.
    10. Wang, Wangshuai & Ma, Tianjiao & Li, Jie & Zhang, Mo, 2020. "The pauper wears prada? How debt stress promotes luxury consumption," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 56(C).
    11. Anita Pansari & V. Kumar, 2017. "Customer engagement: the construct, antecedents, and consequences," Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Springer, vol. 45(3), pages 294-311, May.
    12. Huachao Gao & Karen Page Winterich & Yinlong Zhang, 2016. "All That Glitters Is Not Gold: How Others’ Status Influences the Effect of Power Distance Belief on Status Consumption," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 43(2), pages 265-281.
    13. Donald R. Lehmann & Jeffrey R. Parker, 2017. "Disadoption," AMS Review, Springer;Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 7(1), pages 36-51, June.
    14. Sung-Ha HwangBy & Jungmin Lee, 2017. "Conspicuous consumption and income inequality," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 870-896.
    15. Aaron M. Garvey & Simon J. Blanchard & Karen Page Winterich, 2017. "Turning unplanned overpayment into a status signal: how mentioning the price paid repairs satisfaction," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 28(1), pages 71-83, March.
    16. Floyd, Kristopher & Freling, Ryan & Alhoqail, Saad & Cho, Hyun Young & Freling, Traci, 2014. "How Online Product Reviews Affect Retail Sales: A Meta-analysis," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 90(2), pages 217-232.
    17. Shao, Wei & Grace, Debra & Ross, Mitchell, 2019. "Consumer motivation and luxury consumption: Testing moderating effects," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 33-44.
    18. Lee, Saerom & Bolton, Lisa E., 2020. "Mixed signals? Decoding luxury consumption in the workplace," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 331-345.
    19. Shao, Wei & Grace, Debra & Ross, Mitchell, 2019. "Investigating brand visibility in luxury consumption," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 357-370.
    20. Wu, Laurie & Lee, Christopher, 2016. "Limited Edition for Me and Best Seller for You: The Impact of Scarcity versus Popularity Cues on Self versus Other-Purchase Behavior," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 92(4), pages 486-499.

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