Wealth and spending

Research in this thematic area focuses on consumption as an economic and social phenomenon: it is our view that consumption cannot be separated from income, wealth, indebtedness, and distribution of economic resources, and thus these questions have to be discussed in a same framework.

As societies are getting richer, the role of wealth has systematically increased. This is also connected to wealth concentration and increasing income inequality which leads to many risks and adverse effects for both consumers and economies as a whole. For a long time, these crucial issues related to consumers and wealth have been under-researched within consumer studies; it is our aim to address this gap.

We frame individual consumer decisions and consumption patterns as a consequence of political-economic, historical forces and as socially constructed, while maintaining an interest in the lived experience of individual consumers in financial matters. We take a multidisciplinary approach, using both qualitative and quantitative methods, and integrate macro and micro perspectives.

Current research topics

Ongoing research includes work on the following topics:

  • understanding and alleviating consumer debt
  • reference budgets and the sufficiency of basic social security
  • media representations of debtors and poor consumers
  • the increasing importance of wealth and its impact on the distribution and generation of income and wealth
  • measurement issues related to income, consumption and wealth
  • long-term comparative research on morally-laden consumption phenomena such as gambling and the transformation of power, social relations and value systems regarding consumption over time.

The updating of reference budgets is part of the project Tackling Inequalities in a Time of Austerity (TITA consortium), funded by the Academy of Finland’s Strategic Research Council (Decision No 293103). The updated reference budgets are part of the ongoing third expert group for evaluation of the adequacy of basic social security (2018-2019).

Societal impact

The research results have impacted and continue to have an impact on policy making particularly through work on the definition of a decent level of consumption (reference budgets) and household debt. In Finland, reference budgets have been used to evaluate the sufficiency of basic social security, develop an alternative poverty measure and assess the level of decent consumption in various contexts (research, authorities). Satellite accounts have been used to track the transfer of activities from consumers to other sectors and vice versa. The OECD and UNECE joint Task Force on Valuing Unpaid Household Service Work uses a compilation method developed by our researchers for preparing international guidelines on the compilation of household production. Research on debt has focused on how young people manage their finances and debts, and has sought to develop financial and debt advice in Finland.

Researchers

Recent publications