This paper proposes a new analysis of consumption inequality using relational methods, derived from network images of social structure. We combine structural analysis with theoretical concerns in consumer research to propose a relational theory of consumption space, to construct a stratification indicator, and to demonstrate its analytical efficacy with aggregate consumption data. This allows us to emphasize the multi-dimensionality of the relationship between social groups and consumption patterns in the context of a stratification perspective. We utilize the concept of structural equivalence, derived from network models of social structure, to recover relational proximity between social groups and between consumption categories. Additionally, we use relational proximity to construct a new indicator of consumption hierarchy and we test its predictive ability in estimating consumption behavior. We discuss the theoretical implications of our findings for a spatial theory of stratification, as well as possible directions for future research.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Haya Shnap and Yaron Yosseph for their helpful research assistance. We also thank the reviewers for their suggestions. This research was funded by the Edelstein Foundation for Population Studies at the University of Haifa.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Sociology and Political Science
- Social Sciences (all)