Class, cohort, and consumption: The British experience of the third age

Chris Gilleard, Paul Higgs, Martin Hyde, Richard Wiggins, David Blane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. This study examines the relative effect of historical and social class location on engagement in consumerism within two different cohorts of retired people in the United Kingdom. Methods. With use of self-reported data from the retired members of a nationally representative survey, an index of consumption was constructed. Its internal reliability was analysed and analyses of variance performed to examine the impact of class of origin, cohort, and class at exit on levels of self-reported "consumerism." Results. The index demonstrated sufficient internal reliability to provide an operational measurement of "consumerism" within this retired population. Analyses of variance confirmed that class at exit and cohort but not class of origin contributed significantly to variation in levels of consumerism. These effects were not mediated by cohort differences in health. Discussion. Occupational standing immediately before retirement was associated with " consumerism" after retirement. This is unsurprising. The results also show that birth cohort exercised a stronger historical influence on current consumption in later life than did class background (i.e., paternal social class). This supports our thesis that the limited but increasing immersion in mass consumer society of successive cohorts who were born and grew up earlier in the 20th century continues to be reflected in levels of "consumerism" in retirement. Copyright 2005 by The Gerontological Society of America.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S305-S310
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005


Dive into the research topics of 'Class, cohort, and consumption: The British experience of the third age'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this