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What to buy when the American Dream fails?


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Although socioeconomic status has been a fundamental concept that marketing professionals employ to explain and predict consumer behaviors, relatively little do we know about the shopping preferences of those who are moving from one socioeconomic status to another. In the seminar, Dr. Wei-Fen Chen will present data collected through mixed methods to discuss how consumers’ tastes are influenced by upwardly mobile and downwardly mobile experiences. Preliminary findings indicate that, consumers picture upward mobility versus downward mobility in asymmetric ways. As a result, consumers in a downward mobility mindset prefer products appealing to cultural capital (e.g., knowledge, cosmopolitanism) over those appealing to economic capital (e.g., fortune), while consumers in an upward mobility mindset prefer both equally. The findings are useful to understand markets where individuals feel that they are “getting ahead” or “left behind” without clear stratification references, revealing that consumers with different social mobility experiences or expectations may shop differently even if they appear to be in the same economic bracket.

About the Speaker
Wei-Fen Chen joined HKUST in 2016 as a Post-doctoral Fellow in the Institute for Emerging Market Studies, after receiving her Ph.D. in Communications and Media from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on the consumption practices of individuals experiencing broadly-defined social mobility, as well as their impact on personal well-being and on a sustainable consumption-scape in global cities. She was a recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship, in additional to multiple fellowships in the U.S., Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Her research has been published in the Journal of Consumer Culture and Qualitative Inquiry.

Any further updates about the event will be posted on http://iems.ust.hk/chen