MetaTOC stay on top of your field, easily

The myth of America's "culture of consumerism": Policy may help drive American household's fraying finances

Journal of Consumer Culture

Published online on


This article examines why American consumption has boomed over the past three decades, even as wages have stagnated and debt has risen. Although many analysts characterize rising spending as a product of a "culture of consumerism," these analyses suggest that much of this spending growth is on well-being-essential products, whose prices have been rising quickly. Nonessential consumption growth is primarily occurring at the top of the US income pyramid, while the strains of paying for basic essentials may push lower income households into greater debt. America's purported inability to restrain consumption spending may be attributable to policy-induced structural factors that make basic necessities expensive, and less a product of modern marketing, media, or some other cultural phenomenon.