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Champagne taste, beer budget: The new poor’s incongruent capital and consumption

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journal contribution
posted on 05.09.2019, 17:04 by Wei-Fen Chen, Michelle R. Nelson
This study examines the shopping preferences of “new poor” consumers who have incongruent capital: lower economic capital and higher noneconomic capital. The new poor exemplify consumers with ambiguous and fragmented identity; thus, they do not fit marketers’ static categorization of consumer segments. In the marketplace, these consumers must compromise between their upper-class taste and lower-class earnings. Taking a Consumer Culture Theory approach to examine consumers’ identity projects in social inequality, we conduct 20 interviews among self-defined new poor consumers in the United States and Taiwan to explore how their dynamic social class consciousness is reflected in everyday consumption. The findings suggest that new poor consumers perform “compromised ideal consumption” in which they strategically interpret and wield their remaining capital to signal social class differences, while employing adaptive and active capitalization acts to access goods that should have been beyond their price range. The findings illuminate how incongruent, devalued capital reproduces social stratification in the context of downward mobility.

Funding

We appreciate the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange for offering the Dissertation Completion Fellowship to the first author’s dissertation project, on which this study is based.

History

Citation

Journal of Consumer Culture, 2017

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, ARTS AND HUMANITIES/School of Business

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Journal of Consumer Culture

Publisher

SAGE Publications (UK and US)

issn

1469-5405

eissn

1741-2900

Copyright date

2017

Available date

05/09/2019

Publisher version

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1469540517729006

Language

en

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