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The Interdisciplinary Science of Consumption$
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Stephanie D. Preston, Morten L. Kringelbach, and Brian Knutson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027670

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027670.001.0001

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Consumption as Pollution: Why Other People's Spending Matters

Consumption as Pollution: Why Other People's Spending Matters

(p.299) 16 Consumption as Pollution: Why Other People's Spending Matters
The Interdisciplinary Science of Consumption

Frank Robert H.

The MIT Press

Consumption does not occur in a social vacuum. The spending of others in the community establishes frames of reference that strongly shape the spending patterns of each individual. This is a normal and inescapable fact of the human condition. In recent decades, virtually all significant income gains accrued to those who already had the highest incomes. This group responded to these gains the same way that all others respond to income growth—by spending more. This higher spending at the top shifted the frames of reference that shape the judgments of those just below, causing them to spend more as well—and so on, all the way down the income ladder. In many cases, the resulting expenditure cascades have made it more costly for middle-income families to achieve basic goals. Negative externalities from consumption are thus much like negative externalities stemming from noise, smoke, or other forms of pollution. To ignore that simple fact when designing of our laws and institutions is to pass up clear opportunities for everyone to lead more fulfilling lives

Keywords:   Consumption in social context, Consumption as pollution, Expenditure cascades

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