research@hec - Issue #16 - (Page IV)

Social Construction of Identity among Poor Consumers research Bige Saatcioglu BIOGRAPHY Bige Saatcioglu has been teaching marketing at HEC since September 2009. She holds an MBA in Marketing and Sales Management at the Rochester Institute of Technology (USA) and a PhD in Marketing from Virgina Tech (USA). She specializes in theoretical and methodological issues in transformative, critical, and interpretive paradigms, consumer culture theory, as well as social problems and public policy implications. Poverty is an understudied topic in the marketing field, simply because marketers assume (wrongly) that poor people haven’t got enough capital to pursue economic goals. Yet it’s an important socioeconomic problem. Bige Saatcioglu chose to study it because it has major implications in terms of social policy, which she finds make her work more meaningful. She started her research on the social construction of poverty during her PhD in Virginia, with Julie Ozanne, Professor of Marketing, as an advisor. While poverty has many shapes in the United States, Bige Saatcioglu decided to focus on the “working poor”, who earn a small wage but have limited access to socio-cultural resources such as healthcare, education, and employment opportunities and on those who live on government assistance. “The best place to find them is in trailer parks, a low-income type of residence that is generally looked down upon in the United States. It is also an ideal context to explore interesting theoretical dynamics; with their unconventional appearance, trailer homes challenge the typical middle-class brick-style American housing. There are also many negative popular stereotypes of trailer park residents as dirty, lazy, criminal-minded, and irresponsible citizens who ended up in poverty due to personal reasons,” explains the researcher. Although poverty even in the active workforce is more and more widespread, marketing has paid little attention to the poorer consumers and to how they their identities within their homes and their community. define themselves in a context of deprivation. Bige Saatcioglu blazes the trail by taking a close look at how the residents of an American trailer park create hec THE DIFFERENT DIMENSIONS OF POVERTY While Bige Saatcioglu originally started exploring the poor’s strategies to cope with low income, her DISTINCT VISIONS OF THEIR FATE When interviewing residents within one geographically defined site, Bige Saatcioglu rapidly identified five distinct groups, according to how they perceived their own economic and social situation – as “poverty” or not – and according to their aspirations. For example, one group of consumers in the park from their prior worse-off living conditions, they do not view themselves poor in the traditional sense. They had overcome absolute poverty – they have a home and food, and relative poverty – they own socially perceived necessities such as cell phone and television. main project has moved in a new direction, that of the construction of consumer identities in poverty, and she blends sociology into her approach. But first, she is quick to point out that poverty must not be interpreted merely in terms of lack of money: “It’s too simplistic, even though it fits the middleclass ideology of America as a land of opportunity where anyone can make it provided they work hard.” Instead, its scope must be expanded to take into account the fact that economic deprivation also means exclusion from other resources, from health care, from recreation, maybe from school, in short: it brings cultural deprivation – and the attached stigmatization. But most interestingly, while outsiders may lump together all residents of a trailer park as “lazy” or “dirty”, those concerned actually define their own poverty in very different ways, which in turn shapes very different identities. IV research@hec • August-September 2010

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of research@hec - Issue #16

Cover & Contents
Real Options for Optimal Investment Strategies
Social Construction of Identity among Poor Consumers
Promoting Creativity Same-Discipline vs Cross-Discipline Interactions
Launch of the AXA – HEC Paris Chair

research@hec - Issue #16