Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Trends in the Effect of Economic Insecurity on the Allocation of Household Expenditures in the U.S., 1980-2005
by Lauber, Kirsten Bartlett, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2014, 376; 3681855
Abstract (Summary)

The transition to late-capitalism in the U.S. has generated extensive societal change. This paper examines the intersection of three of these changes: the transition to a consumer-oriented economic and societal model, the increase of economic insecurity experienced by individuals and households and the heightened emphasis on a short-term orientation in individual decision-making. A review of literature from the fields of Sociology, Economics and Psychology describes differing understandings of how individuals react to the heightened economic insecurity that households experience under late-capitalism. Within mainstream Economics', theoretical and empirical work suggests that individuals respond to insecurity by reducing spending and maximizing long-term financial well-being. However, recent work by theorists such as Zygmunt Bauman and Richard Sennett suggest that the proliferation of risk that occurs under late-capitalism weakens individuals' ability to anticipate future risks and leaves them vulnerable to society's emphasis on short-term thinking.

In response to these two interpretations, I analyze differences in the effect of household employment insecurity on consumer behavior over time. Part one of the analysis is a descriptive evaluation using six years (1980-2005) of General Social Survey data and compares levels of perceived job insecurity across demographic and occupational groups, while controlling for occupation-specific unemployment levels. Results show that perceived insecurity increased during this time period, regardless of individual characteristics however, members of traditionally 'secure' groups had lower initial levels of perceived insecurity and sharper growth such that, by 2005, levels of job insecurity are not well predicted by demographic or occupational characteristics.

The second part of this study analyzes data from BLS' Consumer Expenditure Survey. A two-level regression model for repeated cross-sectional data decomposes the effect of occupational characteristics, the unemployment rate and time on households' spending in nine expenditure categories. Models include interaction effects to assess changes in the effect of occupational characteristics over time. Results suggest that occupational characteristics weakened as predictors of spending behavior during this time series, especially in 'long-term oriented' categories (e.g. housing, education). However, the presence of an earner in a high insecurity occupation is significantly associated with increased spending on 'short-term oriented' good and services.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Deane, Glenn D.
Commitee: Jacobs, Ronald, Lachmann, Richard
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 76/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology, Economics, Public policy
Keywords: Consumerism, Decision-making, Economic insecurity, Late-capitalism, Post-industrialism, Theory
Publication Number: 3681855
ISBN: 9781321548556
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