A Sociocultural Investigation of Consumer Credit and Consumer Debt

Session Chair: Craig Thompson, University of Wisconsin
Discussion Leader: Eric Arnould, University of Nebraska

Session Name: A Sociocultural Investigation of Consumer Credit and Consumer Debt



Consumers and Credit Cards: Building “The Good Life” with Plastic Tools


David Crockett

Randall L. Rose

University of South Carolina


Brief Abstract: To date prior research on consumer credit has largely been limited to issues of pathology (e.g., impulse buying) and other public policy issues (e.g., high debt lifestyles, bankruptcy). More recently, consumer researchers have begun to place credit card use into a broader framework that can account for consumer credit use as a means for participation in consumer culture, and all its potential outcomes (e.g., Bernthal, Crockett, and Rose 2005). This research seeks to build on that framework by exploring the role of credit cards in lifestyle building. Specifically, it seeks to uncover the practices associated with the construction of lifestyle among people in the earliest stages of the family life cycle (i.e., Bachelor/Bachelorette, Newly Married Couples, and Full Nest I). Further, we delimit our focus to those living outside the proverbial debtors’ prison, though many consumers at these early stages of the family life cycle are likely to experience high debt levels. Our purpose in delimiting the investigation this way is to narrow the focus to relatively sustainable lifestyle building projects.



It’s Not just the Money You Owe: Consumer Debt and Social Relationships


Jeff Wang

Melanie Wallendorf

University of Arizona


Different from traditional research on consumer debt, this paper illuminates that consumer debt is socially embedded and relationship based. We contend that debt needs to be understood beyond pure economic rationale. Drawing on young debtors in college, we use depth interviews to explore the dynamic interactions between consumer debt and debtors’ social relations. Our findings show that these young adults leverage degree of independence and obligations as they accumulate debts while negotiate meanings of responsibility as they repay their debts.



A Poststructuralist View of Credit Card Advertising and

Consumer Credit Card Debt Management


Nina Diamond

Suzanne Fogel

DePaul University


This paper views consumer credit as an ideological system that manifests itself in the commodity texts of credit card advertising, and in the narratives and practices of credit card debt revolvers. Discourse analysis is employed to investigate the promotion of credit in popular culture, and the construal of credit and credit cards by American consumers. Semiotic codes driving CitiGroup’s “Live Richly” and Mastercard’s “Priceless” campaigns are used to explore the meanings implicit in these ads, and these implied meanings are then mapped onto consumer narratives obtained from interviews with revolvers.
[ to cite ]:
Session Chair: Craig Thompson and Discussion Leader: Eric Arnould (2006) ,"A Sociocultural Investigation of Consumer Credit and Consumer Debt", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 33, eds. Connie Pechmann and Linda Price, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 421-423.