Social stratification and musical consumption: Highbrow–middlebrow in the United States

Arthur S. Alderson, Isaac Heacock, Azamat Junisbai

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction In earlier research (Alderson et al., 2007), we used the General Social Survey (Davis et al., 2003) to identify and analyse styles of cultural consumption that emerge across domains of cultural activity in a nationally representative sample of US residents. Motivated theoretically by three broad views of the relationship between stratification and cultural consumption – the homology, individualisation and omnivore–univore arguments (see Chapter 1) – we examined responses to a set of survey items regarding respondent participation in activities as diverse as reading, attending the theatre, visiting an art museum and attending a rock, country, or rap performance. We found that contemporary cultural consumers cluster into a small number of recognisable patterns, patterns that are more consistent with the omnivore–univore thesis than they are with the alternatives. When we modelled these styles of consumption, we found that an explicit measure of social status emerged as the central ‘stratification-related’ variable defining such styles, and that the role of social status was large relative to other sociodemographic and compositional factors. For instance, individuals at the highest social status were 8.3 times more likely to be ‘omnivores’ across these domains than they were to be members of a comparatively inactive group of cultural consumers. By comparison, individuals with the highest educational credentials were 5.4 times more likely and individuals at the highest income were 3.7 more likely. In this chapter, we move from the analysis of cross-domain styles of cultural consumption to examine consumption within a single domain – that of music. Our choice here is purposive.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Status and Cultural Consumption
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9780511712036
ISBN (Print)9780521194464
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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