A new study into how African-Americans exhibit political and ideological beliefs through shopping

December 10, 2004

For most consumers, where we shop, from whom we buy things, and the brands we buy tell a lot about who we are and what we believe in. For some, deciding to buy household tools from a mega retail store versus a neighborhood hardware store marks a very important and deliberate political and ideological decision. Yet, African-American consumers, often living in neighborhoods with fewer consumer choices are limited in their opportunities to exercise their rights as a consumer. How well are they able to make consumer choices based on political ideology?

A unique study focusing on this precise scenario is described in the December 2004 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. In the article, David Crockett, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of South Carolina and Melanie Wallendorf, a professor of marketing at the University of Arizona, describe a study that looked into the role political ideology plays for African-American consumers.

"We suggest that in the struggle for equality consumers in this setting have increasingly come to express and demonstrate their political ideologies through consumption acts at the very time their involvement in more traditional acts of political participation is decreasing," the authors write.

Thus, while there are several forces at work as one exercises her or his consumer choices, Crockett and Wallendorf stress the need to consider a consumer's political ideology.

The authors explain that this idea of consumerism "is central to understanding shopping as an expression of social and political relations between households confronting attenuated access to goods and services ranging from housing to food, in a setting stratified by gender, race, and class."
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University of Chicago Press Journals

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