Academic journal article Journal of Social Sciences

Young Adult Perception and Attitude toward Conspicuous Consumption and Poverty

Academic journal article Journal of Social Sciences

Young Adult Perception and Attitude toward Conspicuous Consumption and Poverty

Article excerpt


This study explores the perception and attitude of young adults toward conspicuous consumption portrayed in mass media and their conception of poverty. Many young adults may not realize the cadre of consumerist ideologies portrayed throughout the culture and mass media such as buy more, buy newer and improved, buy wants over needs, buy comparatively, buy exclusively and buy to prove. In light of such mass media portrayal, young adult consumption habits may reflect unrealistic ideas about what it means to be poor. This research quantitatively examined the impact of mass media on young adult consumption patterns and sought to determine if there is a relationship between conspicuous consumption and poverty perception based on portrayals in popular mass media culture. The population for this research was primarily college-age student consumers under 25. The findings indicate that young adults view their consumption as an indicator of class and social status and that mass media portrayal have a significant relationship on their consumption perception.

Keywords: Young Adult, Perception, Attitude, Conspicuous Consumption, Portrayal, Mass Media, Poverty


Today, there is a viscous cycle of consumption that permeates every facet of society that is increasingly perpetuated on American young adults between the ages of (18-25). In the U.S., young adults, represent approximately 15 percent of the nation's population (Henslin, 2012). As members of generation Y, also known as Millennials, young adults live in a time when more means better and there are increasingly diverse mass media outlets and advanced forms of communications (Steinberg, 2012). Their exposure to popular mass media portrayals about poverty and consumption can be summed up as 'it's not only good to consume but compare that consumption to others', a notion which may distort their perception about poverty and what it means to be poor (Nelson, 2011; Akcay et al., 2012; Whybrow, 2005; Perrucci and Wysong, 2008). However, this study is about more than "keeping up with the Joneses" or "keeping up appearances", it is about the fact that each generation faces consumerism with little to no consumptive defense mechanism or awareness about poverty as it relates to conspicuous consumption.

In addition, mass media (radio, television, movies, newspapers, magazines and the internet) may influence young adult perception and attitude about conspicuous consumption and their ideas about what is poverty-that deprivation (of any kind) is negative and undesirable while consumptive abundance and overindulgence is positive and desirable. Behaviors best described as conspicuous consumption, a concept coined by sociologist Thorstein Veblen (Perrucci and Wysong, 2008), that describes the fundamental change in people's orientation and eagerness to show offtheir wealth due to elaborate consumption. In this respect, inextricably and intentionally, poverty can result from conspicuous consumption (Wallace and Wolf, 2006). Constant exposure to popular culture influences and shapes societies portrayal and perceptions of poverty (Levine, 2006; Maconis, 2011; Reimer et al., 2008). In many instances, mass media poverty portrayal is rooted in and based on conspicuous consumption and not the absence of resources that is life threatening also known as absolute deprivation/poverty. While people with basic or limited resources know the feeling of hunger, lack and want, popular culture portrayals influences their interpretation of poverty and conspicuous consumption (Akcay et al., 2012; Chan and Goldthorpe, 2007; Nelson, 2011). The changing notions of community and exposure to different lifestyles through the media have fundamentally altered the reference groups (Akcay et al., 2012; Perrucci and Wysong, 2008) upon which relative deprivation/poverty is estimated; thereby, changing consumption behavior. Today, the youth and young adults have greater access to the consumption cathedrals (Ritzer, 2009) through social networks, malls, high rises, internet, cell phones, video games, music videos, popular music, magazines and the list goes on and on. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.