Conspicuous consumption is contagious


There goes the neighborhood!

When someone wins the lottery, it can be bad news for his neighbor’s finances. A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia examines the relationship between lottery winners in a particular Canadian province and bankruptcies in the same province — it found that neighbors of lottery winners are unusually likely to go bankrupt, and the larger the lottery prize, the more likely bankruptcy becomes.

Specifically, every $1,000 in lottery winnings translates to a 2.4 percent higher probability of a nearby neighbor declaring bankruptcy.

The researchers have an explanation for why this happens, too. When people declare bankruptcy in Canada, they have to disclose all their major assets — things like houses, cars, boats, and motorcycles — to the courts. The researchers found that the larger the lottery prize, the more money bankrupt neighbors spent on big-ticket vanity purchases — and the more likely they were to run out of money.

The clever study is one of the first to provide statistically rigorous evidence for a claim that seems plausible but is hard to prove: that rising inequality causes people to spend beyond their means in an effort to “keep up with the Joneses.” This is the idea that when someone’s wealth suddenly increases, her neighbors — and probably her friends and relatives — feel pressure to spend more to avoid being upstaged. Ultimately, this kind of competition can leave everyone worse off.

Never lived in a neighborhood where this was a problem. Most times, you struck it rich – you moved out of where I lived. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Conspicuous consumption is contagious

  1. Old Red says:

    Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart): Do you believe what that old man who was doin’ all the talkin’ at the Oso Negro said the other night about gold changin’ a man’s soul so that he ain’t the same kind of a guy that he was before findin’ it?
    Curtin (Tim Holt): Guess that all depends on the man.
    Dobbs: That’s exactly what I say. Gold don’t carry any curse with it. It all depends on whether or not the guy who finds it is the right guy. The way I see it, gold can be as much of a blessing as a curse.
    “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948)
    http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/386154/Treasure-of-the-Sierra-Madre-The-Movie-Clip-What-Gold-Does-To-Men-s-Souls.html

  2. Rize or Die says:

    Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt): We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.
    Narrator (Edward Norton): Martha Stewart.
    Tyler Durden: F*** Martha Stewart. Martha’s polishing the brass on the Titanic. It’s all going down, man. So f*** off with your sofa units and Strinne green stripe patterns.
    “Fight Club” (1999) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight_Club

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