The notion that humans are more than simple markers of particular variables has a long history in sociology, but contemporary efforts to study people as whole packages are rare. Preferences, priorities, and structural position interact in nuanced ways to create what can be called a lifestyle. Variants on this approach include the nearly complete endogenous reproduction of social position associated with Bourdieu, Abbott’s notion of a case-centered approach to social behavior, and recent extensions of field and network theory.

In American consumer culture, the way households allocate their available income across spending categories provides a useful window into their lifestyles. Aspects of American culture encourage and reward consumption of particular goods and services from early in life, and the way people allocate available resources across the alternatives marks social and economic position as well as some elements of preference, taste, and priorities.

The whole package that a lifestyle suggests, in turn, shapes important behaviors including saving. Using cluster analysis on detailed spending behavior, we identify 8 lifestyles: renters, health-constrained, homeowners, givers, pleasure seekers, parents and students, and crisis managers.

We then study how these lifestyles are associated with saving.



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