Conspicuous consumption – a term first introduced (1899) by economist/sociologist Thorstein Veblen. It referred to consumers who bought expensive items in order to display wealth and income. It was an attempt to enhance one’s prestige.
The stigma of wealth is morphing. Recently I read the summary of interviews conducted among wealthy Manhattanites. The research revealed that a majority of the interviewees are ambivalent about being labeled affluent; they choose to maintain a low-profile about their wealth so they can be viewed as “normal” hard working people versus being ostentatious, entitled “snobs.” Some wealthy people actually cut the price tags off their clothes so their hired help (a.k.a. nannies) won’t see them. They purposely shop at Target for bargains or drive old cars.
I recognize that the New York Times research only reflects the social values of the new rich in New York Metro. In other pockets of the country, rich people still like to display their wealth in every glitzy way possible; mega mansions, yachts, private jets, etc. Regardless, whether the rich decide to flaunt their wealth or not, socioeconomic inequality in America is a reality.
The gulf between the haves and have-nots continues to widen.