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Signaling ideology through consumption


Schneider, Florian H (2022). Signaling ideology through consumption. Working paper series / Department of Economics 367, University of Zurich.

Abstract

Firms often discourage certain categories of individuals from buying their products, seemingly at odds with typical assumptions about profit maximization. This paper provides a potential rationale for such firm behavior: Consumers seek to signal that they have “desirable” ideological values to themselves and others by avoiding products popular among people with “undesirable” values. In laboratory experiments and surveys, I provide causal evidence that consumption can be diagnostic of consumers’ ideologies and that demand for a product is lower if its customer base consists of individuals whose ideological values are widely considered undesirable. These effects occur for both observable and unobservable consumption and for products that do not possess any inherent ideological or undesirable qualities.

Abstract

Firms often discourage certain categories of individuals from buying their products, seemingly at odds with typical assumptions about profit maximization. This paper provides a potential rationale for such firm behavior: Consumers seek to signal that they have “desirable” ideological values to themselves and others by avoiding products popular among people with “undesirable” values. In laboratory experiments and surveys, I provide causal evidence that consumption can be diagnostic of consumers’ ideologies and that demand for a product is lower if its customer base consists of individuals whose ideological values are widely considered undesirable. These effects occur for both observable and unobservable consumption and for products that do not possess any inherent ideological or undesirable qualities.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Working Paper Series > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:D12, C91, M3
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ideology, social image, self-image, signaling, consumption, experiments
Language:English
Date:July 2022
Deposited On:13 Oct 2020 15:21
Last Modified:05 Jul 2022 09:32
Series Name:Working paper series / Department of Economics
Number of Pages:106
ISSN:1664-705X
Additional Information:Revised version ; former title: Signaling moral values through consumption
OA Status:Green
Official URL:https://www.econ.uzh.ch/en/research/workingpapers.html?paper-id=1049
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Permission: Download for registered users
  • Description: Version October 2020
  • Content: Published Version
  • Description: Revised version July 2022