How do our spending habits reflect our social origins?

The way we spend our money tells a lot about our social origins and education. And sometimes independently from our income. Even if our revenues can increase or decrease, our expense habits don’t change or a little. Beyond a common foundation to the whole population and taking into account that many counterexamples exist, the way we consume depends on our social origins. According to our revenues, we do not buy the same products, do not choose the same kind of vacation, do not watch the same TV shows, do not read the same magazines, do not have the same hobbies and do not go in the same type of retailers and stores.

First social marker: money

In other words, all products and services with high involvement – that involve the customer and are linked to his purchasing power and income –  won’t be the same from one social class to another. In addition to health and education, one of the first factors of social differentiation is housing, the greatest expense item for all social classes without distinction. Professionals and senior executives spend more money on rent and charges than technicians, administrative employees and manual workers. These differences in expenditures are reflected in the housing size, quality and location. Highest-income households are ready to pay more for living in the most privileged areas.

Furniture and household equipment expenses vary from one social class to another (up to 100% in Luxembourg: € 2 956 per year for manual workers against € 4 955.2 for senior executives). Car is another great social marker. Depending on our income and social class, we don’t buy the same model because we don’t attach the same level of importance to cars. The same is true for day-to-day and fancy clothes, jewels and luxury boutiques.

Second social marker: education

But money doesn’t explain everything! We also have to take into account behaviour habits linked to education and values learned in family. A highly educated family will always maintain their cultural and educational level, even if the parents had experienced a period of economic decline and have less money than in the past. Whatever it happens, they will continue to go to operas and museums and will always focus on teaching quality when they have to choose a school for their children.

On the opposite, even if his income becomes higher, a manual worker will trend to follow the same eating habits – food rich in calories – instead of consuming more fresh, more dietary, less industrial and not necessarily more expensive food, just like the upper classes do.

The situation is the same for the purchasing process: a consumer with higher income, from a lower class background, tends to remains sensitive to the price of the product (“the more expensive it is, the more beautiful it is”) and a consumer with higher income, from an upper class background, is rather attracted by the quality, the innovative character and the functionalities of the product.

Money can’t buy happiness and, such as cloth, doesn’t make the man!

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