Working-class consumers: A look at the complex social system of a trailer park

Sep 10, 2013

Contrary to stereotypes, low-income trailer park residents form distinct groups with different visions of morality, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"These findings emphasize the multiplicity and richness of that exist within the same social class of the working poor," write authors Bige Saatcioglu (Ozyegin University) and Julie L. Ozanne (Virginia Tech).

The authors conducted an ethnographic study within a trailer park community in the United States. They examined the ways low-income consumers negotiate their social status within a resource-restrained and stigmatized community. They found that residents used different visions of morality to evaluate themselves and their neighbors.

The study revealed five distinct within the trailer park. The Nesters value hard work, discipline, and perseverance, and cherish their trailers as power symbols of their successful consumerism. Nesters are critical of many of their neighbors who they see as irresponsible, lazy, and immoral. Reluctant Emigrants view life in the park as a downward trajectory from their past lives. Community Builders offer constructive communal solutions and cooperate with various stakeholders to help improve life within the park. Homesteaders are resigned and indifferent, but skilled in leveraging social support within the community. They are reluctant to leave the park where they feel at ease and find support. Finally, the Outsiders represent a tightly knit defiant subculture focused around a thrill-seeking moral disposition. They engage in defiant and rule-breaking practices within the park and attach little symbolic meaning to the trailer home or life in the park.

This study sheds light on why it is difficult for low-income consumers to unite.

"Why is there enduring class stability and very few working-class protests despite growing in the United States?" the authors ask. "The micropolitics of life within the trailer park suggest organizing for social change would need to overcome significant differences among these groups."

Explore further: Research reveals rowdy past of UK's parks

More information: Bige Saatcioglu and Julie L. Ozanne. "Moral Habitus and Status Negotiation in a Marginalized Working Class Neighborhood." Journal of Consumer Research: December 2013.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

When college diversity delivers benefits

Jul 22, 2013

The benefits of race-conscious college admissions are only fully realized under certain conditions, concludes new University of Maryland-led research. To stimulate meaningful cross-racial engagement, incoming freshman classes ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.