Effortless Elegance: Upwardly Mobile Consumers in the Emerging Markets.

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This project aims to examine the consumer behavior in emerging markets through the lens of consumers’ upwardly mobile experiences in the macro-societal economic reform. Using multiple research methods, we collect qualitative data in field trips and in-depth interviews to understand how consumers’ upward mobility trajectory affects their status-signaling and discount-seeking behavior, and conduct behavioral experiments to compare these consumers with others in downward mobility. This project is a departure from dominant social class and consumption studies by addressing consumers’ transitional identities in dynamic economic conditions. The focus on consumers’ social mobility experiences rather than on certain social class background may be especially useful to understand the consumer culture in China, where urban consumers enjoy an upgraded lifestyle while their social class consciousness remains ambiguous due to political discourses and socio-ideological sensibilities. We expect the research findings to illuminate intra-class variations, underlying mechanisms, and the co-constitutive consumer culture shaped by consumers, marketers, booming economies, and the socio-historical transformations in emerging markets.

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