Cross-Cultural Influences on the Demand For Status Goods

Roger Mason, University of Salford, U.K.
ABSTRACT - Interpersonal preferences are known to play a significant part in generating consumer demand for status goods. However, whilst Veblen, bandwagon and snob effects are international, cultural differences affect the nature and pattern of status-directed consumption. Since 1950, consumption of socially-visible products in the United States and Europe has reflected differences in cultural traditions and social values and, within Europe itself, regional variations have been in evidence. The stronger European identity and common interests which are developing in the 1990s, together with recent changes in United States preoccupations, can be expected to further accentuate differences in status consumption within and between the two cultures.
[ to cite ]:
Roger Mason (1993) ,"Cross-Cultural Influences on the Demand For Status Goods", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. W. Fred Van Raaij and Gary J. Bamossy, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 46-51.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1993      Pages 46-51

CROSS-CULTURAL INFLUENCES ON THE DEMAND FOR STATUS GOODS

Roger Mason, University of Salford, U.K.

ABSTRACT -

Interpersonal preferences are known to play a significant part in generating consumer demand for status goods. However, whilst Veblen, bandwagon and snob effects are international, cultural differences affect the nature and pattern of status-directed consumption. Since 1950, consumption of socially-visible products in the United States and Europe has reflected differences in cultural traditions and social values and, within Europe itself, regional variations have been in evidence. The stronger European identity and common interests which are developing in the 1990s, together with recent changes in United States preoccupations, can be expected to further accentuate differences in status consumption within and between the two cultures.

Consumer demand for status goods is heavily influenced by three "external effects" on product utility (Liebenstein,1950). Veblen effects are intended when individuals use product price as a means of ostentatiously displaying wealth; snob effects motivate consumers to buy an item because of its relative scarcity value; and bandwagon effects encourage people to purchase goods and services in order to be identified with a particular social group.

The influence of these interpersonal preferences on consumption has long been recognized and is well documented. Evidence of consumer preoccupations with the social rather than the utilitarian attributes of goods and services - and particularly with Veblen and bandwagon effects - can be found in the earliest societies. Luxury consumption in the Roman Empire became so acute that sumptuary laws were introduced to suppress it. At the same time, the political importance of bandwagon purchasing and display in allowing all socio-economic groups the means to gain peer group approval and respect was recognised in the most primitive societies. Snob purchasing, motivated by the desire for personal distinction, has been ever-present, initially as a preoccupation of the relatively wealthy but now seen at all social and economic levels.

Whilst Veblen, bandwagon and snob effects have always been with us, display consumption is now changing significantly as consumer wants and needs are becoming heavily influenced by multinational companies using the power of global communication networks to reach all but the most remote regions of the world. Society today is increasingly exposed to an "international" culture and to commercially-sponsored value systems. The speed of change and of communication has had the effect of profoundly altering the pattern of demand for status goods worldwide and is raising issues of consumption "management" and resource allocation of considerable significance. Certainly, the culture of materialism will change with respect to status-seeking through the 1990s and developing cross-cultural influences will continue to shape future demand. This paper looks at the degree to which Liebenstein's categories of status-directed consumption do, in fact, continue to reflect market behaviour and at the extent to which consumer behaviour within and across these categories varies with the cultural differences between nations.

PURCHASING FOR DISPLAY IN EARLY INDUSTRIAL SOCIETIES

The conspicuous consumption which so concerned Thorstein Veblen at the end of the nineteenth century had been a significant feature of United States consumption for many years. Conspicuous excesses had grown during the so-called Gilded Age between 1860 and 1910, and became so outrageous that they had eventually produced a public backlash, a reaction which in fact significantly changed status consumption in the years after 1910. (Phillips, 1905; Weyl, 1912).

The ostentatious display of the Gilded Age was an attempt by the newly rich to establish their position in society by securing status through wealth. However, the lavish expenditures of the time mirrored a sea-change in cultural values which had taken place since 1850. Most significantly, the conspicuous consumers of the late Gilded Age were not those whose efforts had created the often outrageous levels of personal and family wealth but their heirs who were attempting to use this wealth to join Ward McAllister's four hundred "exclusively eligible families". (Morris, 1947).

McClelland (1961) reported on evidence which showed that achievement imagery in children's readers in the United States, starting from a low point in 1830, grew through the nineteenth century to reach a peak in 1890, after which time it fell away sharply and continued to fall until 1950. At the same time, conspicuous consumption peaked in the twenty years after 1890, the year which saw the start of a swift decline in the self-help culture and philosophy which had been the generator driving rapid U.S.industrialisation in the middle years of the century. There was, therefore, a marked increase in status-directed consumption in the period immediately following the turning-point in achievement motivation.

Evidence that conspicuous consumption peaked as achievement imagery declined is supported by earlier British experience. Britain saw a strong rate of growth in achievement imagery in the 1840-70 period, with the decline after 1870 quickly followed by the fin de siecle excesses of the new industrial plutocracy. In both the U.S.and Britain there was a significant correlation between achievement imagery and conspicuous consumption which suggested that the peak of ostentatious economic display occurred in the twenty to thirty years following peaks in achievement indicators (Mason,1981). Ostentatious consumption then tended to excess and eventually reached levels which produced increasing public hostility rather that admiration and status-conference. This in turn was the catalyst for a return to more modest expenditures and for the very rich to adopt public-spirited policies of "conspicuous philanthropy" in order to secure status and title. (Schlesinger, 1951).

Whilst a paradigm relating to nineteenth-century conspicuous consumption can be developed, bandwagon purchasing has historically followed a different pattern. The importance of such behaviour as a means to social stability was always recognised (Malinowski, 1922; Mauss, 1925); the problem lay with the often substantial poverty of those who could not claim to be members of any ruling or industrial Tlite. In effect, systems of bandwagon purchasing evolved which allowed for such poverty (Salisbury, 1962; Firth, 1965; BouglT, 1971). As U.S. and European income distribution improved through the nineteenth-century, however, bandwagon purchasers were more able to carry the costs of purchasing for display (not to make vertical "(between-group) gains for upward mobility - gains which were still out of reach financially - but for "horizontal" (within-group) status recognition). In so doing, consumers moved away from no-cost display to more expensive patterns of conspicuous behaviour.

The coming of the mass market between 1850 and 1914 allowed for far greater levels of bandwagon purchasing. Mass production meant that goods were available in quantity for consumers whose improving incomes had now taken them through primary 'needs' to secondary 'wants' (Fraser, 1981). The expansion of multiples and of department stores was complemented by advertising which was able to create product images for a mass audience. Status purchasing was becoming a possibility for many millions of people. At the same time, income distribution was fairer but still markedly unequal and market communication was slow by modern standards. Bandwagon purchasing, as a consequence, had arrived but was still in its infancy.

Unlike Veblenian conspicuous consumption which tended to rouse public hostility when taken to excess, bandwagon consumption generated no such hostility, primarily because it was available to a far greater part of the population. It was also seen as an equalising rather than as a socially divisive form of consumption and as such continued to prosper.

As a bandwagon purchasing grew in importance, so, paradoxically, did snob purchasing. with its emphasis on personal prestige and distinction. Snob consumption caters to expressions of individualism within society and such purchases are intended to make a statement of exclusiveness through personal distinction and aesthetic taste. Historically, snob consumption had been seen as the preserve of Tlites who were able to use their wealth not only to conspicuously consume products and leisure but also to secure items of particular rarity and/or aesthetic value. However, as bandwagon purchasing grew in importance, a greater number sought to distance themselves from the new mass consumers and, using their own much-improved income and wealth, attempted to isolate themselves in their consumption behaviour from the 'common herd'. The early industrial period saw a major development of customised and limited edition products which, targeted at the new middle classes, offered the possibility of emphasizing differences in social standing and personal taste.

STATUS CONSUMPTION SINCE 1950

Cursory examination of the changes in social and economic structures which have occurred over recent years quickly dispels any idea that patterns of consumption historically associated with Veblen, bandwagon and snob effects have not also changed substantially over the period. First, conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste entered into for status gains was in early industrial societies an activity only of the very rich who enjoyed extremes of wealth and who were often attempting to displace ascribed-status with achieved-status value systems. The distribution of income and wealth was such that only a few enjoyed such privileges while many millions were living in relative poverty. Given their limited numbers, conspicuous consumers could not be seen to represent a commercial volume market for high-value status goods. Similarly, opportunities for bandwagon and snob purchasing were restricted by absolute and relative income levels. Although U.S. and European demand for status products was growing after 1850, the sophisticated communication and distribution systems which would have been necessary to serve volume markets were still lacking.

The situation today stands in marked contrast. As societies have grown in wealth and as income distribution has widened, so status consumers, whether for Veblen, bandwagon or snob effects, have come to represent markets of substantial size. Manufacturers, retailers and banks have combined to exploit these opportunities and to make substantial credit available to those who need the means to finance their purchases. Most importantly, global communications, and particularly the power and extension of television, have created an international demand for status goods.

Historical patterns of purchasing for display were made redundant as modern society allowed instant gratification of demand for Veblen, bandwagon or snob products for all but the very poorest. We can no longer expect to identify and measure lead and lag effects on conspicuous economic behaviour in the same way. At the same time, whilst opportunities for status consumption are now international, the propensity to conspicuously consume can and does vary between nations notwithstanding the seemingly pervasive influence of a new international media culture and of commercially organised activity directed towards increasing conspicuous consumption.

By 1980, there was much evidence to show that the propensity to conspicuously consume within any community is determined by dominant cultural traditions and values and by social and economic environment (Hair & Anderson, 1972; Henry, 1979; Hirschman, 1980). It is also heavily influenced by social structure and by the means through which social mobility is achieved (Witt, 1969; Grubb & Stern, 1971; Cocanougher & Bruce, 1971). At the individual level, not only are personal wealth and income leading determinants of status-led consumption but the subcultures to which the individual belongs or with which he or she identifies can have an equally strong influence on social aspirations (Stafford, 1966; Mosch, 1976). Finally, social class and reference group influences also have a marked effect on individual consumer preferences and can themselves encourage ostentatious economic behaviour (Goffman, 1951; Bourne, 1959, Venkatesan, 1966; Hempel, 1974).

"Social character" (Riesman, 1950) is shaped by the interaction of these many influences and will either favour or reject conspicuous display as an economic and social activity. However, a social character sympathetic to such behaviour is a necessary but not a sufficient motive - differences between individuals play an equally important role. For a person to have a positive wish or drive to conspicuously consume, three further conditions must be met. The individual must have a high propensity to achieve, a high propensity to 'role play' and a high sensitivity to social relationships at all levels (McClelland,1961; Goffman,1959; Festinger,1957). And although cultural background influences these characteristics, they are also shaped in large part by innate personality traits independent of environmental circumstance (Horney, 1958; Krech, 1962; Kassarjlan, 1971). It is this independent random variable which explains why not all individuals who share similar environments choose to be conspicuous consumers of status goods. (Scott, 1972).

Research through the 1980s (Belk, 1982; Coleman, 1983; Solomon, 1983; Miller, 1987) has built on these earlier findings and has for the most part confirmed them. Since the mid-1980s, however, two significant elements have been added to the debate. First, the essentially 'static' analysis of the earlier research has been questioned; it is now clear that cultural meaning expressed through consumption is constantly changing and 'flows continually between its several locations in the social world, aided by the collective and individual efforts of designers, producers, advertisers and consumers' (McCracken, 1986). The pattern of status consumption, therefore, is dynamic rather that static. Second, there are now cultural categories which possess an 'elective' quality, allowing consumers the freedom to reject or join them at will and to declare membership through consumption. As traditional class barriers have broken down, individuals are to a great extent what they claim to be and this has affected the nature and direction of status-spending both within and between nations.

The dynamic and elective properties of status consumption are nowhere greater than in the United States. Over the last forty years, however, the possession and display of wealth has continued to dominate status expenditure within and between social groups and this remains the case today. Personal affluence and its expression through consumption - whether as luxury consumers, as collectors or as philanthropists - has remained central to American consumer culture (Lapham, 1988; Baritz, 1989; Packard, 1989). Hirschman (1990) has suggested that this preoccupation with wealth display at both national and local level may in part be motivated by a drive for 'secular immortality'. Whilst we are still not certain of motives, its expression through Veblenian conspicuous consumption is self-evident. The United States, joined in more recent years by Japan, has retained an ideology of affluence which remains the principal driving force behind much status expenditure. There is an established cultural, social and economic tradition of conspicuous consumption for vertical gain and a social structure based on achievement and material possession rather on ascribed status. Certainly sub-cultures exist which lay greater emphasis on social rather than economic values but the dominant motivation to purchase for status is for Veblen effects.

European culture, in contrast, has never developed value systems and social organisations which promoted Veblen effects to the same degree. Purchasing for Veblen effects in Britain, for example, has been significant but has in part been resisted because of an enduring emphasis on ascribed rather than achieved status, and on the high status values given to other social factors such as education and occupation (Best, 1971; Seaman, 1973).The ostentatious display of wealth, whilst much in evidence among ruling Tlites, was never accepted as a means to securing improved social status and was often entirely counterproductive. Only in the 1980s was there any real attempt to introduce an achievement-orientated society which allowed for and even encouraged greater levels of conspicuous consumption at all social and economic levels, but this experiment in cultural change has met with substantial resistance. In The Netherlands, ascribed-status values were also strong but here greater emphasis has traditionally been put on possessions rather than on status display as a result of a cultural system which is far less declarative than that of the United States (Dawson and Bamossy,1990). In the 1960s, when Dutch blue-collar workers first enjoyed far greater affluence, social status aspirations remained very limited. The working class tended to reject what they saw as invidious comparisons with the income or social position of other groups and focused instead on adding to and improving their material possessions - not for display but for pride in ownership (Ter Hoeven,1969; Buiter,1967).

Britain and the Netherlands are similar in that both have been hierarchical societies with clearly-defined social class structures. They also share weakening but significant Non-conformist religious values which have tended to promote a Calvinistic belief in self-help but which have also historically condemned overtly ostentatious behaviour. Whilst both countries are now loosening class restrictions and becoming increasingly secular, traditional cultural values continue to influence consumer behaviour. In contrast, U.S. cultural norms, similarly derived from strong Calvinistic value systems, encouraged self-help and condemned conspicuous display up to 1850. But these values changed as 19th and 20th century immigration eroded the power of Protestantism and weakened its traditions and beliefs.

Britain and The Netherlands have both in the past seen high levels of Veblenian conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste (Escott, 1880; Schama, 1987). But in both cases, this was a conspicuous consumption of Tlites within what were both ascribed-status systems; it was not founded on a cultural tradition which encouraged the population at large to believe in a classless, socially mobile society. In contrast, U.S. culture after 1850 promoted these values with the result that today purchasing for Veblen effects is accepted at any and all levels of society.

Elsewhere in Europe, the form and nature of conspicuous economic display has shown further variation. France, for example, holds a particular place in the market for status goods. It has been estimated (McKinsey, 1990) that in 1989 some 47% of world sales of luxury goods were of French origin and the country's reputation for style, design and product status-value remains unchallenged. Acknowledging its importance, the market for luxury products is of central concern to French manufacturers and academics. However, within France itself, conspicuous consumption of luxury goods contrasts with such behaviour elsewhere.

Benarrosh-Dahan (1991) has shown that, for the French, consumption for status focuses more on personal display. The emphasis of conspicuous consumption is on style and taste and finds expression through personal lifestyle rather than through conspicuous expenditures on homes, estates or automobiles, all of which have been central to conspicuous consumption in the United States (Packard, 1969). This preoccupation with style and with personal status products is reflected in the language, 'les m'as tu vu' being colloquially used to describe conspicuous consumers.

The French also focus heavily on quality and on the importance of a high-quality 'marque' or brand name in deciding their purchases. This emphasis on quality and reputation is placed ahead of price in purchase considerations, and reflects a long-standing French Kantian aesthetic (Bordieu, 1984) which lays great emphasis on 'taste' and rejects consumption motivated by what is seen as a tasteless, popular culture. This aesthetic, which has strong roots in all European culture, has also worked to suppress conspicuous consumption levels in general whilst at the same time elevating the status of education and occupation.

Brief examination of the nature of purchasing for Veblen effects both within Europe itself and between Europe and the United States, therefore, shows marked differences. Research suggests that cultural factors are, for the most part, responsible for such differences but other possible explanations are worthy of investigation. In particular, there have been marked contrasts in political developments and influences over the period. The political tradition in Europe since 1945 has in general seen a greater commitment to interventionist economic management and to collective rather than individual welfare than in the U.S. and this altruism will have fed through into cultural and sub-cultural values. These in turn may have influenced individual propensities to conspicuously consume. At the same time, if more altruistic, egalitarian values have worked with cultural factors to suppress Veblen-effect status consumption in Europe and have served to reinforce the negative influences of lingering ascribed-status traditions on such behaviour, they have actively encouraged another form of socially-visible consumption - that intended to secure so-called bandwagon effects.

Bandwagon purchasing differs from Veblen-motivated status consumption in that it is primarily driven by a desire to secure horizontal (within group) rather than vertical (between group) status gains. It thrives therefore in a cultural, social and economic environment which encourages display among equals rather than attempts to secure upward social mobility and is primarily used to identify with a particular social class or peer group through 'badge' purchasing.

Bandwagon effects are today at their strongest where there is a strong felt need to identify with a peer or 'elective' group or where social divisions and income constraints remain strong enough to persuade consumers to compete for status within existing networks rather than to look for upward social mobility through consumption display (Douglas & Isherwood, 1974; Coleman, 1983). After 1950, bandwagon purchasing, offering manufacturers and retailers an international market of many millions of potential buyers, has been heavily promoted by the major multinationals. Brand recognition levels of bandwagon purchasers are known to be high and have increased as global advertising has generated increasing demand for these status goods throughout the world. Certainly, since 1980, a strong bandwagon culture has developed worldwide and has promoted demand for 'designer' goods on a significant scale. The market is now international and variations in consumption tend only to reflect differences in income and wealth. Bandwagon purchasing has now become a universal expression of status consumption and the power of communications and of the major multinationals is such that the demand for these internationally-recognised status symbols will grow rather than diminish, although there will inevitably be changes in the product 'mix' which finds favour with the mass market of buyers.

Finally, increases in conspicuous consumption and in bandwagon purchasing in recent years have paradoxically stimulated a far greater interest and activity in snob purchasing. Demand for snob products is motivated by a desire for personal distinction and by the wish to accentuate 'taste' through the ownership of products of recognised aesthetic value which are either unique or in very limited supply. Hirschman (1990) has drawn attention to the fact that snob purchasing in the U.S. is often seen as complementary to conspicuous consumption as individuals search for the 'secular immortality' for which the ostentatious display of wealth is not, in and of itself, enough. To this end, Veblenian consumers have turned to the conspicuous consumption of products of special or unique value, to the collection of art and antiques (which can later be endowed to the nation or, less ambitiously, to the local community, as an act of conspicuous philanthropy) and to the acquisition of products of craftsmanship and aesthetic value.

Snob purchasing in Europe has taken a different form in that it has been motivated more by the desire of individuals to distance themselves from bandwagon purchasers rather than to complement Veblenian conspicuous consumption. Again, this search for snob effects owes much to the traditional Kantian aesthetic which runs through European culture and which lays great emphasis on social recognition through the demonstration of personal taste and rejection of the values of popular material culture. This aesthetic has in fact provided a significant market for snob products in Europe over the past thirty years.

Whilst snob products occupy a particular place in the market for status goods, they are often restricted in supply and highly priced. As a result, it is difficult to be sure that purchases are not motivated more by Veblenian conspicuous consumption than by the search for snob effects. This is particularly true in the United States, given American preoccupations with wealth display. At a more general level, the considerable overlaps between different forms of status consumption always make any attempt to categorize purchases that much more difficult. Expensive designer clothes can be bought for Veblen and snob motives as well as for bandwagon effects. However, cross-cultural differences play a role in explaining where the major emphasis lies in the consumption of status goods. Pure conspicuous consumption will prosper in societies which are highly achievement oriented and where a generation of newly-rich are prepared to attack ascribed-status values, believing that progress to the top of the social scale can and should be signalled by the conspicuous display of wealth (U.S., Japan). In contrast, bandwagon effects can be happily accommodated in traditionally heavily stratified societies where culture rejects wealth as an indicator of social worth and where values are more egalitarian. In such societies, less is gained by the ostentatious display of wealth and the price paid for any given product confers relatively less in status terms. Europe, with its philosophical aversion to wealth display and its greater emphasis on social networks and on aesthetic value has found bandwagon and snob purchasing a necessary outlet for status-expression through consumption in an increasingly status-conscious, postmodernist era.

Summarizing, the pattern of status-spending between the U.S. and Europe and within Europe itself shows marked differences. There are clearly different propensities to conspicuously consume for Veblen effects between nations and the 'product mix' which finds favour with buyers is also subject to variation. In contrast, bandwagon purchasing is international, generating demand for products which enjoy worldwide recognition and which are used to declare elective membership of postmodernist consumption-driven cultures and subcultures. Whilst suppliers have a vested interest in sustaining demand for their brands, it is reasonable to expect that, over the longer period, there will be some variation in the product mix as multinationals compete for market share. Finally, snob purchasing has grown in importance, both as a complement to conspicuous consumption and as a reaction to the uniformity of mass market consumption which typifies bandwagon purchasing.

A VIEW OF THE 1990S

It is clearly not possible to know with certainty how the demand for status goods will develop in Europe and the United States over the present decade. Whilst the alliance of manufacturers, advertisers, retailers and financial institutions formed to promote sales of status goods worldwide will continue to have a clear vested interest in heightening consumer sensitivities to status and prestige, continuing changes in cultural, social and political influences suggest that suppliers can not be certain of knowing the forms of status-seeking which will be most preferred by individual consumers. At the same time, any prognosis can be informed by recent trends and developments.

In the U.S. and Britain, the high level of conspicuous consumption witnessed in the 1980s - stimulated by a marked redistribution of wealth in favour of the rich - appears to have produced a social reaction to ostentatious display which tends to reinforce historical evidence that such behaviour is not capable of self-regulation, tends to excess and is ultimately regulated through adverse public opinion. This experience has been mirrored in the Republic of Ireland, where similar redistributions of wealth and income produced levels of conspicuous consumption in the later 1980s which have been questioned and put under greater public scrutiny.

Whilst self-regulation of conspicuous consumption continues to be elusive, other changes in the market for status goods have been brought about by market mismanagement. In recent years manufacturers have often failed to restrict supply and have expanded distribution and product availability to meet high levels of demand. As a consequence, product status values have been reduced and markets seriously compromised. Overall, lack of market self-regulation and supplier mismanagement, taken together, have worked against status purchasing and this has to some extent slowed market developments and devalued many product reputations.

Other factors are also combining to make excessive ostentatious display less attractive, especially for the European consumers. First, there can be little doubt that through the 1990s, European preoccupation with the environment and with the need to protect and preserve natural resources will continue to grow. As a by-product, individual consumption which is intended to demonstrate high levels of "conspicuous waste" may be increasingly condemned with the result that status is withdrawn from, rather than conferred upon, such consumers. It will, in short, become increasingly counterproductive to indulge in wasteful expenditure, particularly when the waste has strong environmental overtones and is seen to diminish the overall quality of life.

Second, the recent changes in Eastern Europe will have a marked effect on Western European attitudes to consumption. Whilst communism may have run its course, many of the social values which were a part of that political system have not yet been rejected by the "new democracies" of the East. In Poland, for example, whilst the State has withdrawn much of its former protection and social welfare provision, there is still a strong sense of community and of social cohesiveness. Conditioning which over many decades encouraged the individual to seek to be "like others" and to "stay with the crowd" has produced attitudes which will take time to change. In a recent survey, a majority of Poles sampled, including many of the better educated and relatively rich, still accepted equality as a form of social order and a long-standing philosophy of "jealous equality" was still in evidence (Karwinska, 1992).

As Eastern Europe imports Western economic values, therefore, it will for several years export cultural and social values which can be expected to influence Western European attitudes, not least attitudes to consumption. A greater sense of altruism would influence consumer behaviour and work against an excess of conspicuous consumption in an expanded Europe of unequal parts where the gap between rich and poor nations will have widened.

European values in the 1990s can be expected to move in a direction which would see levels of conspicuous consumption tempered by a greater altruism and concern for the environment and by changing cultural and social values. Changes in the United States, however, are more difficult to gauge. First, there is in the U.S. far less intensity of feeling than in Europe over environmental issues and views as to what constitutes environmental threat and economic waste. The environment is, in consequence, a greater political and economic force in Europe and should influence future consumption far more than in the U.S.

Second, there is no Eastern European equivalent which will work to reshape American attitudes to status consumption and change a propensity to conspicuously consume which is deeply rooted in an entirely sympathetic culture. At the same time, the demography of the U.S. is forecast to change markedly through the decade, with Hispanic-Americans coming to represent a significantly larger proportion of the total population. The U.S. may then realign geopolitically, becoming more Latino-centric and less Euro-centric. Implications for status consumption are difficult to estimate but there is no reason to believe that such changes would work to diminish the culture of affluence which has in the past directed so much U.S. status-spending. European values, however, would bring less influence to bear on U.S. status consumption.

Overall, insofar as Veblenian conspicuous consumption is concerned, the balance of probability must be that the gap between the two societies will widen through the 1990s. In contrast, bandwagon purchasing, driven by the pervasive influence of multinational corporations and of global communication networks, will continue to promote an international culture which has already taken strong hold. This new culture, with its roots in postmodern society, is now influencing consumer choice both in Europe and the U.S. so strongly that there is no prospect of it diminishing in importance over the decade. Finally, interest in both conspicuous consumption and in bandwagon effects will continue to create a substantial demand for snob products among those consumers for whom status consumption is used as an expression of individualism and personal distinction.

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