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  Food, Classed? Social Inequality and Diet: Understanding Stratified Meat Consumption Patterns in Germany

Einhorn, L. (2020). Food, Classed? Social Inequality and Diet: Understanding Stratified Meat Consumption Patterns in Germany. PhD Thesis, Universität zu Köln, Köln.

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Genre: Thesis


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https://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/12132/ (Any fulltext)
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https://doi.org/10.7802/2043 (Supplementary material)
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Einhorn, Laura1, Author              
1International Max Planck Research School on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society, ou_1214550              


Free keywords: Social inequality, food consumption, meat consumption, behavioral change
 Abstract: Based on a complementary mixed-methods design, the dissertation sheds light on the relationship between meat consumption practices and consumers’ socioeconomic position. In a first step, two large-scale data sets, the German Einkommens- und Verbrauchsstichprobe (EVS) 2013 and the Socioeconomic Panel (GSOEP) 2016, are used to establish empirical relationships between meat consumption practices and consumers’ socioeconomic position. Education and income do not show the same effects across social groups. Income most strongly affects the meat consumption patterns of low-income consumers, and income effects diminish as income increases. Furthermore, income does not make much of a difference for consumers with low levels of education. Meat-reduced and meat-free diets are also more common among students and among self-employed persons, even after controlling for income and education. Income does not necessarily influence the amount of meat that is consumed but the type and the price of the purchased meat. In a second step, data from 46 semi-structured interviews with non-vegetarian and vegetarian consumers is used to gain a profound understanding of the mechanisms behind these statistical relationships. Differences in consumption patterns do not result from differences in food ideals, but from different capacities for implementing dietary changes. These capacities are significantly shaped by material and non-material resources. I argue that 1) reducing consumption does not require financial resources, but voluntary meat reduction is significantly linked to financial resources in different ways; 2) university education is conducive to meat reduction as it fosters scientism and the ability to quickly gather and exploit new sources of information; 3) high-SES consumers value self-improvement and uniqueness which encourages dietary changes and aids in dealing with social conflict arising from such changes; 4) food neophilia is an important precondition for the adoption and maintenance of meat-reduced diets, and income and education foster food neophilia; 5) familiar foods are an important compensatory tool that offsets negative emotions arising from material scarcity, stress, and social conflict. In the last part, I show that all interviewees categorize, evaluate and judge others’ food and meat consumption practices, and that these judgments have a series of intended and unintended consequences. The main findings, implications and limitations of this study, as well as avenues for future research are discussed.


Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2020-07-092020
 Publication Status: Published in print
 Pages: 166
 Publishing info: Köln : Universität zu Köln
 Table of Contents: 1 Introduction
2 Theoretical underpinnings
2.1 Meat consumption patterns as expression of classed lifestyles: Cultural class analysis
2.2 Meat consumption patterns and dietary changes: Reflexivity, agency, and emotional states
2.3 Meat consumption patterns in applied research: Sustainable consumption
3 Mixed-method design
3.1 Part I: Quantitative analysis
3.2 Part II: Qualitative analysis
4 Empirics I: Establishing links between socioeconomic position, meat consumption and vegetarianism
4.1 State of research
4.2 Level of meat consumption
4.2.1 Dependent variables
4.2.2 Independent and control variables
4.2.3 Methodological considerations
4.2.4 Results
4.2.5 Interim conclusion
4.3 Vegetarianism
4.3.1 Dependent variables
4.3.2 Independent and control variables
4.3.3 Results
4.3.4 Interim conclusion
4.4 Summary and Discussion
5 Empirics II: Understanding links between socioeconomic position, meat consumption and vegetarianism
5.1 Food ideals and meat consumption
5.2 Material and non-material realities: The role of economic, cultural and social capital
5.2.1 Economic vegetarianism
5.2.2 Scientism and communal knowledge
5.2.3 Substituting social capital, 'fitting in' and 'standing out'
5.2.4 Food neophilia
5.2.5 Familiar food
5.2.6 Household relationships
5.2.7 Interim conclusion
5.3 Symbolic realities: Valuation and boundary work
5.3.1 Boundary work by vegetarians
5.3.2 Boundary work by non-vegetarians
5.3.3 (Mis)recognizing costs
5.3.4 Consequences of boundary work
5.3.5 Interim conclusion
5.4 Diets, capital endowments and boundary work: How material and symbolic realities interact
6 Summary and contributions
7 Discussion and implications
8 Bibliography
9 Appendix
 Rev. Type: -
 Identifiers: URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-121326
URI: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/id/eprint/12132
 Degree: PhD



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