Conspicuous Consumption and Race
Using nationally representative data on consumption, we show that Blacks and Hispanics devote larger shares of their expenditure bundles to visible goods (clothing, jewelry, and cars) than do comparable Whites. We demonstrate that these differences exist among virtually all sub-populations, that they are relatively constant over time, and that they are economically large. While racial differences in utility preference parameters might account for a portion of these consumption differences, we emphasize instead a model of status seeking in which conspicuous consumption is used to reflect a household's economic position relative to a reference group. Using merged data on race and state level income, we demonstrate that a key prediction of our model -- that visible consumption should be declining in mean reference group income -- is strongly borne out in the data separately for each racial group. Moreover, we show that accounting for differences in reference group income characteristics explains most of the racial difference in visible consumption. We conclude with an assessment of the role of conspicuous consumption in explaining lower spending by racial minorities on items likes health and education, as well as their lower rates of wealth accumulation.
|Date of creation:||Sep 2007|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published as Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Nikolai Roussanov, 2009. "Conspicuous Consumption and Race," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 425-467, May.|
|Note:||AG EFG LS PE|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
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.:
- David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jacob L. Vigdor, 1999.
"The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(3), pages 455-506, June.
- David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jacob L. Vigdor, 1997. "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," NBER Working Papers 5881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Cutler, David & Vigdor, Jacob & Glaeser, Edward, 1999. "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," Scholarly Articles 2770033, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst, 2002. "The Transition To Home Ownership And The Black-White Wealth Gap," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 281-297, May.
- McBride, Michael, 2001. "Relative-income effects on subjective well-being in the cross-section," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 251-278, July.
- Andrew E. Clark and Andrew J. Oswald, .
"Satisfaction and Comparison Income,"
Economics Discussion Papers
419, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
- Alicia H. Munnell, 1992.
"Mortgage lending in Boston: interpreting HMDA data,"
92-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
- Munnell, Alicia H. & Geoffrey M. B. Tootell & Lynn E. Browne & James McEneaney, 1996. "Mortgage Lending in Boston: Interpreting HMDA Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 25-53, March.
- Cole, Harold L & Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1992. "Social Norms, Savings Behavior, and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1092-1125, December.
- Francis Bloch & Vijayendra Rao & Sonalde Desai, 2004.
"Wedding Celebrations as Conspicuous Consumption: Signaling Social Status in Rural India,"
Journal of Human Resources,
University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(3).
- 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).
- Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2004.
"Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status,"
ESE Discussion Papers
92, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
- Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2004. "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1085-1107, September.
- 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.
- Erik Hurst & Ming Ching Luoh & Frank P. Stafford, 1998. "The Wealth Dynamics of American Families, 1984-94," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(1), pages 267-338.
- 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.
- Barsky R. & Bound J. & Charles K.K. & Lupton J.P., 2002.
"Accounting for the Black-White Wealth Gap: A Nonparametric Approach,"
Journal of the American Statistical Association,
American Statistical Association, vol. 97, pages 663-673, September.
- Robert Barsky & John Bound & Kerwin Charles & Joseph Lupton, 2001. "Accounting for the Black-White Wealth Gap: A Nonparametric Approach," NBER Working Papers 8466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1998. "Social organization, status, and savings behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 37-51, October.
- Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy & Ivan Werning, 2005. "The Equilibrium Distribution of Income and the Market for Status," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(2), pages 282-310, April.
- Ireland, Norman J., 1994. "On limiting the market for status signals," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 91-110, January.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13392. 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: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.