Our American Discourse, Ep. 30: How Do the Rich Spend Their Money and Why Has It Changed?

It used to be that big mansions and fancy jewelry were the consummate signs of wealth, but new research shows that people are increasingly spending their wealth on less “conspicuous” forms of consumption. In today’s world, it pays more to signal your status with things like health care and education and nutrition. How did this change come about? And what does effect does it have on the rest of the population who can’t afford these new status symbols?

In this episode, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett helps us walk a mile in the shoes of today’s “aspirational class” and see how they’re spending their wealth…and how it accelerates the rat race for the rest of society.

Prof. Currid-Halkett is the James Irvine Chair in Urban and Regional Planning in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. She is the author of the new book The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class, which was named one of the best books of 2017 by The Economist.

To listen to this episode of Our American Discourse, click the orange arrow in the Soundcloud player at the top of this post. Or you can download it and subscribe through ApplePodcasts, Soundcloud, Google Play, or Stitcher.


“Our American Discourse” is produced by Aubrey HicksJonathan Schwartz, and myself, and mixed by Corey and Ryan Hedden.