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Career, capitals and consumption: an analysis of the impacts of narrowly-defined occupational membership on household consumption, from a human capital and occupational field perspective

Pavlisa, K. (2019) Career, capitals and consumption: an analysis of the impacts of narrowly-defined occupational membership on household consumption, from a human capital and occupational field perspective. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.17864/1926.84863


This thesis explores the relationship between distinctive, narrowly-defined, occupational groups and their consumption priorities, in relation to goods that represent strategic investments to underpin capitals. Prior interdisciplinary scholarly work envisions individuals’ – and, by extension, households’ - consumption behaviour as being dependent upon their location in the social space characterized by distribution of capital forms (economic, social, and different types of cultural, capital) and career trajectories. Hypothesizing that households associated with distinctive combinations of capitals differ in their consumption strategies in predictable ways, this relationship is explored via models of household expenditure (in relation to goods that are instrumental for displaying and augmenting individual’s capitals, in line with the pressures of social forces and norms in their work environment). Extending this exploration to cross-national comparisons, the thesis further investigates whether distinctive household expenditure patterns are evident in different European national settings. This analysis employs an interdisciplinary perspective and the first chapter explores the complementarities and conceptual parallels of two major theorists - the prominent economist and Nobel prize winner, Gary Becker (1930-2014), and one of the most influential sociologists of the twentieth century, Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002). The work of these scholars with respect to capital forms and their association with consumption behaviours is particularly well-embedded in their disciplines. This literature review chapter suggests an approach for clustering individuals of professional-managerial classes to improve within-class homogeneity, in explorations of practices and consumption behaviour. The empirical exploration consists of the three parts. Chapter 2 explores consumption behaviours of several managerial/professional groups to test whether distinctive patterns of “visible” consumption and its components – presentational, socialization-related and informational goods - can be identified, consistent with capital combinations required for membership of, and advancement within, particular occupational fields. Britain’s Living Costs and Food survey (2009-2016) is used to test whether occupations with similar combinations of capital forms (economic, social, and cultural) are significant determinants of differences in visible consumption for the six “narrow” occupational groups used in this study: higher- and lower- private sector management; public sector management; business professionals; technical professionals; and educational professionals. As the major method, the paper employs pairwise comparison of occupational effects within the single seemingly unrelated regression model for the four expenditure aggregates. Treating personal savings as a commodity, Chapter 3 suggests that social pressures associated with an individual’s occupation matter for their savings as a part of the strategy for maintaining material interests. It argues that the interpretative power in the analysis of the determinants of personal savings could be improved with the addition of “occupational” variables, defined narrowly, as a beneficial way of augmenting withingroup homogeneity and accounting for variation in social influences. The analysis of data from the Understanding Society survey (2009-2015) explores saving behaviour among these clusters using the cross-sectional and random-effects panel logistic regression models, for the propensity to save, and the random-effects panel Tobit model for levels of monthly savings among individuals in different occupational groups. Expecting a footprint of the institutional setting on economic behaviour of individuals, Chapter 4 explores the consumption priorities for wealth-signalling, presentational, socialization-related and informational goods, in three national contexts (UK, France and Hungary) using their national household budget surveys. The dimensions in the theory of comparative capitalism are hypothesized to impact the patterns of consumption behaviour of the same occupational groups across the national contexts. The paper explores the between-occupational differences and also investigates the residual correlations from seemingly unrelated regression models to learn about the cross-national differences in the underlying motivations guiding individuals’ choices. The thesis makes contributions to the sociology of consumption, highlighting the value of narrowly-defined occupation for quantitative analysis of consumption-related behaviours. Acknowledging the role of occupation as a collectivity with the shared culture of consumption, the study illustrates the predictability of preferences in demand for some commodities, informed by prior sociological and anthropological insights. Viewing priorities in consumption strategies as a distinctive characteristic of each professional class, the thesis contributes to knowledge of occupational identities, both nationally and internationally. The observed underlying differences in the “use-value” of commodity aggregates revealed by the study suggest cross-national differences in motivations prevailing in occupational groups. The theoretical rationale and empirical findings of the thesis support the importance of interdisciplinary dialogue.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Scott, P.
Thesis/Report Department:Henley Business School
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School > International Business and Strategy
ID Code:84863


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