conspicuous consumption

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Conspicuous Consumption

The purchase of items one does not need simply to show that one is able to afford them. For example, a person who buys an exotic automobile may be engaging in conspicuous consumption.
Farlex Financial Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All Rights Reserved

conspicuous consumption

the CONSUMPTION of goods and services not for the UTILITY derived from their use but for the utility derived from the ostentatious exhibition of such goods and services.

A person may buy and run a Rolls-Royce motor car not just as a vehicle for transportation but because it suggests to the outside world something about the owner. That person may wish to be seen as affluent or as a person of taste. This phenomenon (known as the VEBLEN EFFECT) can be viewed as an alternative to the more usual consumption theories where the quantity of a particular good varies inversely with its price (a downward-sloping DEMAND CURVE). A conspicuous consumption good may well have an UPWARD-SLOPING DEMAND CURVE so that the quantity demanded increases with its price.

Collins Dictionary of Economics, 4th ed. © C. Pass, B. Lowes, L. Davies 2005