Consumer Economics
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Consumer Economics

Issues and Behaviors

Elizabeth B. Goldsmith

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eBook - ePub

Consumer Economics

Issues and Behaviors

Elizabeth B. Goldsmith

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About This Book

From artificial intelligence to identity theft, from what we once thought of as unshakeable institutions to increasing concerns about privacy and sustainability, consumer issues are an integral part of daily life. This updated fourth edition of Consumer Economics offers students an accessible and thorough guide to the concerns surrounding the modern consumer and brings to light the repercussions of making uninformed decisions in today's global economy.

This definitive textbook introduces students to these potential issues and covers other key topics including consumer behavior, the history of the consumer movement, personal finance, legal rights and responsibilities, and marketing and advertising. Combining theory and practice, students are introduced to both the fundamentals of consumer economics and how to become better-informed consumers themselves.

Highlights in this new edition include the following:

  • New case studies and critical thinking projects to encourage students to develop their critical thinking skills through analyzing consumer issues.

  • Expanded coverage of social media and the impact of social influence on consumers.

  • Revised consumer alerts: practical advice and guidance to help students make smart consumer decisions.

  • A companion website with PowerPoint slides for each chapter.

Fully updated, this textbook is suitable for students studying consumer sciences—what works, what does not, and how consumers are changing.

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Chapter 1

When we all think alike, then no one is thinking.
Walter Lippman
Learning objectives
  1. Understand consumer motivation.
  2. Define consumer economics.
  3. Explain the market economy.
  4. Describe Adam Smith’s contribution to consumer economics.
  5. Explain the five steps in the consumption process.
  6. Explain the three questions economies have to address.
  7. Describe the three parts of the business cycle.


This book is the story of the rise of consumer power and the changes therein. Technologies are certainly a key factor along with economic shifts and efficiencies in tandem with consumers and their need to make wise choices and thrive. Happiness is part of the equation.
In 1905, Steverson wrote that “The world is so full of things, I’m sure we should all be happy as kings.” With the advent of the Internet and mobiles, there is no question that consumers have more exposure to brands, prices, services, information, and products than ever before. What would Steverson make of today’s world? He wrote that quote during the rise of the age of consumerism; Steverson’s couplet highlights the importance of things and illustrates a childlike wonder about the possibilities set before us. If happiness is consumption, we should strive to acquire more and, if all goes well, in the end, live as kings. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that; even the richest person cannot afford endless consumption. And, it is obvious that happiness is not so easily attained. What is the connection between happiness and consumption? What do consumers want? What motivates consumers to consume? How do they make choices? Consider these famous quotes:
Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.
Frank Lloyd Wright
When I was young, I used to think that wealth and power would bring me happiness…I was right.
Gahan Wilson
Money won’t buy happiness, but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem.
Bill Vaughan
Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, says that money itself does not make you happy—what makes a person happy is what is done with the money. Research suggests experiences such as travel (or even broader, relationships and activities of all kinds) bring more satisfaction than durable goods. Many travelers (luxury and budget) are seizing opportunities to take adventures, such as camping, read the critical thinking exercise about the numbers of those traveling alone is going up.
Besides traveling alone going up, another huge stream of thought and action surrounds all aspects of sustainability. Sustainable behavior is a desirable goal for all of us, a positive striving toward the future. We want better lives for ourselves and our families and communities, healthier outlooks, and improved well-being. “Sustainable behavior is a multidimensional concept that includes behaviors such as conservation of natural resources through efficient use, recycling, purchase and use of green products, and other behaviors that preserve the natural environment including air and water quality” (Goldsmith, 2015, p. 3). The spike in the use of solar panels, the proliferation of solar farms, and the purchase of organic products are examples of sustainable behavior.
This chapter introduces the fundamentals of consumerism and the changing world, including the steep rise in international business in which we live. Since we are all consumers, consumer economics is not esoteric; it is applicable every day. We live more and more in a knowledge economy filled with ever-changing technology. A revolution is taking place in social media.
Through understanding consumers, we have a better sense of:
  • the multiple roles of consumers
  • the roles of producers/manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers
  • the government involvement in economic systems, and
  • the decision-making process.
Consumer economics is the study of how people deal with scarcity, fulfill needs, and select among alternative goods, services, and actions. It provides an understanding of how the marketplace works, what our role is in it, and how our choices affect our lifestyles. Studying consumer economics:
  • enriches our lives by helping us get the things we want
  • enlarges our awareness of the impact of globalization on our living standards, lifestyles, and future opportunities
  • increases our understanding of the factors influencing our choices and the choices of others
  • improves our understanding of how the marketplace works
  • increases our awareness of what is fair
  • encourages us to think carefully about how we spend and invest our money.
An end result of studying consumer economics is improved decision-making. Each person should be able to look back on decisions made and, for the most part, feel confident they were the right ones. Producers/manufacturers try to keep up with and anticipate consumers’ needs and have a responsibility to meet them appropriately and efficiently (Goldsmith, 2017).

Why study consumer economics?

Did you have a similar upbringing to Jessica’s in terms of family values and the allocation of money? Perhaps the means and methods were different, such as observing more buying online and fewer trips to the bank. It depends on the era, family, and size of community, but the sentiment remains that most personal finance and consumer economic behaviors are learned in families. The young grandchildren of this book’s author had the delightful experience of being given a tour of a local bank including a visit to the vault and given lollipops and dog biscuits to take home to their pets.
Consumer economics is a discovery process driven by curiosity and impacted by our early socialization. The purpose of this text is to provide the reader with an increased understanding of consumer economics building on previous knowledge and experience. By following the principles in this book, you will:
  • increase self-awareness
  • understand others’ consumption patterns and perspectives
  • approach daily living with enthusiasm and a can-do spirit
  • overcome limitations and weaknesses by knowi...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Consumer Economics
APA 6 Citation
Goldsmith, E. (2021). Consumer Economics (4th ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2021)
Chicago Citation
Goldsmith, Elizabeth. (2021) 2021. Consumer Economics. 4th ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Goldsmith, E. (2021) Consumer Economics. 4th edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Goldsmith, Elizabeth. Consumer Economics. 4th ed. Taylor and Francis, 2021. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.