Toward Development of a Model of the Mediating Effects of Household Geographic Mobility on Consumption, Patronage, and Social Status Mobility

John Gottko, Oregon State University
Paul Sauer, University of Buffalo (SUNY)
ABSTRACT - In the present article, geographic mobiles are considered in the contemporary social context. A Model of the Mediating Effects of Household Geographic Mobility on Consumption, Patronage, and Social Status Mobility is set forth and implications of effects are discussed. The model is described from both a macro and micro market segmentation perspective.
[ to cite ]:
John Gottko and Paul Sauer (1989) ,"Toward Development of a Model of the Mediating Effects of Household Geographic Mobility on Consumption, Patronage, and Social Status Mobility", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 16, eds. Thomas K. Srull, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 81-84.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 16, 1989      Pages 81-84

TOWARD DEVELOPMENT OF A MODEL OF THE MEDIATING EFFECTS OF HOUSEHOLD GEOGRAPHIC MOBILITY ON CONSUMPTION, PATRONAGE, AND SOCIAL STATUS MOBILITY

John Gottko, Oregon State University

Paul Sauer, University of Buffalo (SUNY)

ABSTRACT -

In the present article, geographic mobiles are considered in the contemporary social context. A Model of the Mediating Effects of Household Geographic Mobility on Consumption, Patronage, and Social Status Mobility is set forth and implications of effects are discussed. The model is described from both a macro and micro market segmentation perspective.

Introduction

Household geographic mobility affects consumer decisions at both the macro and micro level of demand. At the macro level, marketing managers are concerned with the implications for across product class demand effects. That is, the battle for the consumer's dollar may be between product classes rather than between brands within a product class. At the micro level, marketing managers are involved with brand strategies where demand is stable within product classes. This dual effect is related to effects which mobility status has on social class and social status. In other words, household geographic mobility might be theorized as both resulting from social class change, as well as causing a change in social status (see Figure l).

Household Geographic Mobility Segments

Andreasen's (1966) theory of geographic mobility posited that mobility classes or segments of consumers had unique demographic and life-style characteristics. Andreasen's research efforts supported this theory with findings that long distance mobiles were different from other population members in certain but not all demographic and life-style characteristics. Because demographic and life-style characteristics are frequently used to construct scales of social class, it is reasonable to assume that mobility also may be related to social class.

Fisher (1986) construed social class as a function of occupation while arguing that social status related to family and community. Further this researcher suggested an interrelationship between the two: for example, a job promotion might cause a social class increase, producing a greater need for home/community related status. In this context, geographic mobility is apt to result.

Fisher's propositions 3 and 4 are instructive:

Proposition 3: Goods may be said to take on the properties of status symbols if the purchase and use of them is indicative of membership in a particular status group. Furthermore, status symbols are efficacious only insofar as there are restrictive mechanisms associated with their appropriation that serve to limit their "fraudulent" use.

Proposition 4: Just as consumption style can be used as a technique of exclusion, serving to maintain the privilege and status of those who belong, so too can consumption ''finesse'' or expertise provide a means of penetrating class and status barriers. in other words, consumption can be enlisted as a strategy to advance social class standing.

Just as product consumption generates status implications so does retail store patronage. For example, Dawson and Cavell (1986) Jain and Etgar (1976) and Hirschman (1978) have all noted that consumers array a hierarchy of stores along the dimension of status. The question of whether mobility status affects retail patronage is less clear. Bell (1967) examined the effect of mobility class on retail patronage for ten types of retail outlets. Bell concluded that the number of potential suppliers visited and screened and the length of time it took to rebuild the retail sources of supply was affected by mobility status. On the other hand Dickson (1982) compared long distance mobile consumers to other consumers in a role-playing experiment and found that mobility had no effect on whether chain stores or local businesses were more likely to enjoy patronage.

The basic tenet of segmentation theory is that there be homogeneity within segments but heterogeneity between segments (Kotler 1988). A scale which classifies geographic mobiles, according to their consumption differences, may embody the effects of homogeneity of not ONLY consumption, but of social status and other demographic characteristics as well. While thee are a number of viable segmentation dimensions, (e.g., distances moved or before vs. after move house values), the authors will focus on the long distance vs. short distance criterion studied by Andreasen, Bell and others.

One good reason for such a segmentation scheme is that motives for long distance or inter-county (or inter-Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)) mobility is likely to differ from motives for short distance or intracountry (intra-MSA) mobility. Long-distance moves often stem from job transfers or desire to return to the city of birth where relatives are proximate. Such moves may entail not only change of job status, but of employer as well. Short distance moves on the other hand are more likely motivated by house or neighborhood status considerations. Need for more room for a growing family may prompt a move to a larger house. On the other hand, promotions and pay increases may result in ability to climb the social class ladder by moving into a more expensive house in a "better neighborhood." A sense of social class significance is usually more clearly understood by households who have lived in an MSA for a number of years than a household moving into an MSA.

FIGURE 1

Though past studies have implied or shown that geographic mobility segmenTs are related to social status and demographic and lifestyle characteristic (Andreasen 1966; Bell 1967, 1969) the primary concern to marketers is whether and how geographic mobility segments relate to product demand and retail store patronage. Indeed, it can be argued that unless segments can be related to demand, that segments are meaningless and do not exist (Dickson and Ginter 1987). In reality, while clusters of consumers with homogeneous demand functions is the determining rule, the usefulness of segments to marketers is lost unless segments can be located and products and promotions positioned accordingly. If geographic mobility classes are most closely aligned with demand segments, then geographic mobility classes become an important positioning tool.

The usefulness of geographic mobility classes as segments is enhanced if mobility segments are related to social class and demographic and life style segments. However, a caution must be exercised, for demographics, lifestyles, and social class tend to be much more temporarily stable than geographic mobility. For one thing, consumers who move one year may not move the next, or even for 4 or 5 years thereafter. Longitudinal studies are needed lo determine the tendency for population groups who are mobile one year to be more likely to be mobile in the future. What is known is that the percent of the population which is long-distance mobile tends to fluctuate within a stable range of 17 to 21% (Current Population Reports, U.S. Census Bureau). General economic factors result in the fluctuations from year to year (Wall Street Journal 1987).

With these considerations in mind, a combined macro and micro segmentation model of the role of geographic mobility in product and retail patronage demand is proposed in the next section. Geographic mobility segments are considered in the context of social status and demographic and lifestyle characteristics.

Model of Demand

The value of segmentation to marketers lies in its implications for marketplace behavior, or demand. Household geographic mobility, might be termed a macro, in contrast to, a micro segmentation variable. On the other hand, individual variables such as income, occupation, social class and status are micro segmentation variables. Figure 2 illustrates the linkage of both macro and micro segmentation variables to each other and to the demand for both products, and retail store patronage.

Important dependencies in this model may not be obvious from the general structure of the model diagrammed in Figure 2. One key link is that between Social Class and Geographic Mobility. If Geographic Mobility drives the model. then Social Class effects will be minimal and micro segmentation effects will depend on macro segment choices and likely be in line with premobility demand patterns. On the other hand, if social class change drives mobility, then the impact of mobility on macro segmentation choices will be subjugated to micro segment effects of Social Class change on product assortment choices. In this latter case it is also apparent that income plays a constraining role in that macro level and micro level decisions are nested in a constant sum model. Satisfied demand at the micro level constrains choices available at the macro level.

Discussion

Mayo and Qualls (1986) have suggested that the concept of "priority," or the sequence of acquisition reflecting the order in which households acquire goods, requires not only cross sectional analysis, but longitudinal study as well. This is largely due to societal changes over time. Similarly, the product demand effects of geographic household mobility requires such research.

Also, the application of the geographic mobility dimension as a useful segmentation tool necessitates improved scaling. Research must be directed at testing the validity of this dimension in predicting consumer marketplace - product and retail patronage - decisions.

FIGURE 2

A PROPOSED MODEL OF THE MEDIATING EFFECTS OF HOUSEHOLD GEOGRAPHIC MOBILITY ON CONSUMPTION, PATRONAGE, AND SOCIAL CLASS MOBILITY

Schaninger (1981) and Dominequz and Page (1981) have contributed a thorough and thoughtful review of the important, but murky, social class issue. These researchers provided studies which both rejuvenated and illuminated an ongoing debate over whether income or social class is the better predictor of buyer behavior (Coleman 1983). Inasmuch as household geographic mobility has been theorized to be related to the complex matter of social class, similarly thoughtful research must be directed at developing tests which will capture the intricate social class effects stemming from the Model of the Mediating Effects of Household Geographic Mobility on Consumption, Patronage, and Social Status Mobility.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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