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Low-income families: experiences and responses to consumer exclusion

Hamilton, K.L. (2009) Low-income families: experiences and responses to consumer exclusion. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 29 (9/10). pp. 543-557.

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The purpose of this paper is to focus on low-income families who are excluded from consumer culture. It explores their experiences and responses to material deprivation, social deprivation and stigmatization. Given the need for identification and calculation of exclusion thresholds to be supplemented by the voice of the excluded themselves, the study is based on qualitative analysis of 30 in-depth interviews with low-income families who encounter consumption constraints in the marketplace. While the harsh realities of consumer exclusion cannot be denied, findings also present a more positive outlook as excluded consumers can achieve empowerment through employment of stigma management strategies, creative consumer coping and rejection of the stigmatizing regime. Research is based only on families with children under the age of 18; future research on older people and exclusion would prove a useful comparison. The research raises a number of important policy issues in relation to social barriers to inclusion and the role of marketing in contributing to consumer exclusion. Social policy studies surrounding social exclusion in terms of separation from mainstream society tend to focus on employment. This paper highlights that a social exclusion discourse can also provide a useful perspective to investigate exclusion in relation to consumerism.