Positional Goods: New inequalities and the importance of relative position

Published: September 2006 Publication Type: Publication

The Young Foundation’s project on Positional Goods explored the emergence of new inequalities in modern Britain and the importance of relative position: “Keeping up with the Jones’s”.

The project’s aims were to understand modern trends in material consumption, celebrity lifestyles and ‘luxury fever’ as well as the slow decline in happiness levels, rising sustainability concerns, insecurity and household debt – and to start a debate around practical policy suggestions that may shift the incentive to compete in the ‘positional economy’ – for example, the promotion of green fuels or congestion charges for sports utility vehicles.

In April 2006 and June 2006 we presented our findings at two Young Foundation seminars attended by participants including Alice Rawsthorn, Hetan Shah, David Goodhart, Jenni Russell, Danny Dorling and others.

In September 2006 we co-hosted a seminar on Positional Goods and Luxury Fever with the Smith Institute at Number 11 Downing Street – where Professor Robert Frank from Cornell University and the psychologist Oliver James discussed the significance of relative position with an audience of policy makers and academics.

Download a full pdf version of the presentation here.