Identifying the Presence and Cause of Fashion Cycles in the Choice of Given Names
Foster School of Business, University of Washington
June 23, 2014
Fashion denotes the changing tastes in conspicuously consumed products and choices. There are two classic, but competing theories of fashion – (1) Veblen’s theory of fashion as a signal of wealth, and (2) Bourdieu’s theory of fashion as a signal of cultural capital. Theoretically, both can give rise to fashion cycles, and there is considerable debate in the literature on the relative merits of the two theories. However, there exists no empirical investigation of the phenomenon of fashion. Importantly, even the existence of fashion cycles hasn’t been empirically established. In this paper, we bridge this significant gap in the literature. We present an empirical framework to identify the presence and cause of fashion cycles. First, we define the Conditional Monotonicity Property, derive the conditions under which a data generating process satisfies this property, and demonstrate its role in generating cycles. Second, we present methods that exploit longitudinal and geographic variations in agents’ economic and cultural capital to test the validity of the two competing theories of fashion. We apply this framework to data on given names. Our results establish the presence of fashion cycles in name choices and support Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 46
Keywords: Fashion, Social Influence, Panel Data, Marketing
JEL Classification: C33, C52, C32, M31, D71working papers series
Date posted: November 20, 2012 ; Last revised: June 24, 2014
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