Capitals, occupational fields and consumption preferences: An analysis of the British family expenditure survey (2009–2016)

Karina Pavlisa*, Peter M Scott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Relationships between occupational membership and personal consumption have long been an important area of social analysis. Occupational groups represent important contexts of consumption, where individuals’ advantages and resources are accumulated and often impose reproduction of field-specific practices and patterns of behaviour. Drawing on Bourdieu’s conceptualisation of capitals and using the British Family Expenditure survey, we explore consumption of capital-signalling goods across particular occupational groups within the professional-managerial ‘class’, associated with different capital structures, and demonstrate distinct spending strategies geared to the pursuit of occupational advancement. We examine consumption behaviours for six managerial/professional groups - business professionals; technical professionals; educational professionals; higher, and lower, private sector management; and public sector management. We test whether distinctive patterns of ‘capital-signalling’ consumption can be identified and find significant effects of capital composition on presentational, socialization-related, and informational expenditure, consistent with our hypotheses. We argue that consumption is a part of the signalling strategy of career agents, and between-occupational contrasts in capital-signalling expenditures are important but overlooked measures of capitals in cultural class analysis. We conclude that granular analysis of consumption patterns is important for revealing differences in accumulation of non-economic capitals across occupational groups, with significant implications for understanding inequality and class divisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1191–1212
Number of pages22
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number5
Early online date13 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • Bourdieu
  • capital
  • consumption
  • expenditure survey
  • professions


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