Demand for Luxury Goods in a World of Income Disparities

Abstract : This paper approaches international trade in luxury goods from demand side. It associates demand for luxury goods with within-country income disparities, via a social interactions component, the so-called Veblen effect (Veblen 1899). In the theoretical part, we propose a simple model of vertical differentiation with preferences displaying a Veblen effect. The model predicts that demand for luxury goods increases with the income gap between the two socio-economic groups (wealthy and non-wealthy agents). Furthermore, wealthy individuals in societies with higher income disparities have higher incentives to purchase luxury goods and hence they are willing to pay more for these. Next, we provide an empirical validation of these predictions on a sample of French high-end exporters (as defined by Martin and Mayneris, 2013) from French 8-digit CN custom data for 2006 at firm-product-destination level. Both demand for and average firm-product unit values of luxury goods are increasing with the income gap in importer country. The relationship is robust to inclusion of control variables as well as to use of alternative measures of income dispersion.
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Anna Ray, Antoine Vatan. Demand for Luxury Goods in a World of Income Disparities. 2013. ⟨hal-00959398⟩

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