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Consumer morality in times of economic hardship: evidence from the European Social Survey

Lopes, Claudia (2010) Consumer morality in times of economic hardship: evidence from the European Social Survey. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 34 (2). pp. 112-120. ISSN 1470-6423

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Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1470-6431.2009.00845.x


Crimes of everyday life, often referred to as unfair or unethical practices committed in the marketplace by those who see themselves and are seen as respectable citizens, have burgeoned in Europe as a result of the transformations in the economy in the late 20th century. A ‘cornucopia of new criminal opportunities’ has given rise to a new range of crimes such as ripping software, making false insurance claims or paying cash on hand to circumvent taxes. These shady behaviours (legal or not) are part of people’s experience, albeit they are collectively regarded as morally dubious. Taken collectively, crimes of everyday life are indicators of the moral stage of a particular society and therefore a valuable instrument for social and political analysis. This paper addresses the question of whether and under which conditions feelings of economic hardship trigger crimes of everyday life. The empirical study relies on data from the second round of the European Social Survey (ESS, 2006) and attempts to model, for each of the 23 countries, a formative measure of crimes of everyday life based on socio-demographic variables and the feeling about household income. The resulting country-specific regression coefficients are mapped onto the broader economic and normative context of the 23 European countries. The results reveal that crimes of everyday life are driven by feelings of economic hardship only in countries where normative factors dictate their deviance. In countries where fraudulent behaviour is more generalized, inner motivations to offend play a secondary role. In these countries, more privileged consumers are more likely to commit fraud as they interact more often with the market. In turn, normative aspects result from a dynamic interplay between cultural and economic factors. As the economy grows faster, the tendency to offend becomes stronger, but only in countries whose gross domestic product (GDP) stands above the European average. In countries with low GDP, the normative landscape is shaped by cultural factors that seem to obfuscate the power of economic factors favourable to consumer fraud.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2012 15:09
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 01:09

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