IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Conspicuous Consumption and Race: Evidence from South Africa

  • Wolfhard Kaus


A century ago, Thorstein Veblen introduced socially contingent consumption into the economic literature. This paper complements the scarce empirical literature by testing his conjecture on South African household data and finds that Black and Coloured households spend relatively more on visible consumption than comparable White households. In an emerging economy context, this is especially important as it carries implications for spending on future assets. This paper explores whether the differences in visible expenditures can be explained with a signaling model of status seeking. Among Black households, spending on visible consumption is found to change predictably with different reference group incomes.

To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

Paper provided by Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography in its series Papers on Economics and Evolution with number 2010-03.

in new window

Date of creation: Mar 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2010-03
Contact details of provider: Postal: Deutschhausstrasse 10, 35032 Marburg
Phone: 064212824257
Fax: 064212828950
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Bloch, Francis & Rao, Vijayendra & Desai, Sonalde, 1999. "Wedding Celebrations as Conspicuous Consumption : Signaling Social Status in Rural India," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 1999022, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  2. Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1998. "Social organization, status, and savings behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 37-51, October.
  3. Servaas Van der berg & Megan Louw & Derek Yu, 2008. "Post-Transition Poverty Trends Based On An Alternative Data Source," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 76(1), pages 58-76, 03.
  4. 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.
  5. Ozler, Berk, 2007. "Not Separate, Not Equal: Poverty and Inequality in Post-apartheid South Africa," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(3), pages 487-529, April.
  6. Saroja Selvanathan & E. A. Selvanathan, 2004. "Empirical regularities in South African consumption patterns," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(20), pages 2327-2333.
  7. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Nikolai Roussanov, 2007. "Conspicuous Consumption and Race," NBER Working Papers 13392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Glazer, Amihai & Konrad, Kai A, 1996. "A Signaling Explanation for Charity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 1019-28, September.
  9. Sandrine Rospabéa, 2002. "How Did Labour Market Racial Discrimination Evolve After The End Of Apartheid?," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 70(1), pages 185-217, 03.
  10. Derek Yu, 2008. "The comparability of Income and Expenditure Surveys 1995, 2000 and 2005/2006," Working Papers 11/2008, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  11. Akay, Alpaslan & Martinsson, Peter & Medhin, Haileselassie, 2012. "Does Positional Concern Matter in Poor Societies? Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Rural Ethiopia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 428-435.
  12. Basmann, Robert L & Molina, David J & Slottje, Daniel J, 1988. "A Note on Measuring Veblen's Theory of Conspicuous Consumption," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(3), pages 531-35, August.
  13. Fafchamps, Marcel & Shilpi, Forhad, 2008. "Subjective welfare, isolation, and relative consumption," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 43-60, April.
  14. Brown, Philip H. & Bulte, Erwin & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2011. "Positional spending and status seeking in rural China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 139-149, September.
  15. 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 349-73, June.
  16. Cowan, Robin & Cowan, William & Swann, Peter, 1997. "A model of demand with interactions among consumers," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 15(6), pages 711-732, October.
  17. Frank, Robert H, 1985. "The Demand for Unobservable and Other Nonpositional Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 101-16, March.
  18. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
  19. Servaas van der Berg, 2006. "How effective are poor schools? Poverty and educational outcomes in South Africa," Working Papers 06/2006, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  20. Harold L. Cole & George J. Mailath & Andrew Postlewaite, . ""Incorporating Concern for Relative Wealth into Economic Models''," CARESS Working Papres 95-14, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  21. John A. Rizzo & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 2003. "Reference Incomes, Loss Aversion, and Physician Behavior," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 909-922, November.
  22. Karen E. Dynan & Enrichetta Ravina, 2007. "Increasing Income Inequality, External Habits, and Self-Reported Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 226-231, May.
  23. Blundell, Richard, 1988. "Consumer Behaviour: Theory and Empirical Evidence--a Survey," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(389), pages 16-65, March.
  24. Ireland, Norman J., 1994. "On limiting the market for status signals," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 91-110, January.
  25. Paula Armstrong & Bongisa Lekezwa & Krige Siebrits, 2008. "Poverty in South Africa: A profile based on recent household surveys," Working Papers 04/2008, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2010-03. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Christoph Mengs)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.