Consumption Patterns of Post-War ‘Baby Boomers’

Undertaken in conjunction with Dr Shinobu Majima of University of Gakushuin and funded by British Academy.

The research addresses debates on the role of consumption in the constitution of age, and the significance of the ‘baby boomer’ generation, covering the period 1961-2011.

The period from the 1960s to the present is marked by two trends: growing numbers of older people and the spread of mass consumption. The research examines linkages between these, addressing debates around the changing nature of old age, using UK data on spending on dress, and related aspects of appearance, by older women to explore the potential role of consumption in the reconstitution of aged identities. Based on a pseudo-cohort analysis of the Family Expenditure Survey, it compares spending patterns on clothing, cosmetics and hairdressing 1961-2011. The research is reported in the article below.

It concludes there is little evidence for the ‘baby boomers’ as a strategic or distinctive generation. There is evidence, however, for increased engagement by older women in aspects of appearance: shopping for clothes more frequently; more involved in the purchase of cosmetics; and women over 75 are now the most frequent attendees at hairdressers. The roots of these patterns, however, lie more in period than cohort effects, and in the role of producer-led developments such as mass cheap fashion and the development of anti-ageing products.

I plan to undertake further work with Professor Majima exploring the purchasing patterns of older men in relation to dress over the same period.