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Rejected, Shackled, and Alone: The Impact of Systemic Restricted Choice on Minority Consumers' Construction of Self

Sterling A. Bone, Glenn L. Christensen and Jerome D. Williams

Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, vol. 41, issue 2, 451 - 474

Abstract: This research investigates the experience of systemic restricted choice and its impact on self-concept among racial and ethnic minority consumers seeking financing. Choosing loans is an involved consumer choice journey, and encountering systemic, chronic, and uncontrollable restrictions on choice at any level of the goal/choice hierarchy limits and even prohibits minorities' ability to make desired choices. Across a multimethod investigation, these three studies demonstrate that minorities experiencing systemic restricted choice endure deleterious impacts to self-concept, including framing the self as fettered, alone, discriminated, and subservient, as well as marked reductions in self-esteem, self-autonomy, and self-efficacy. Minority consumers also frame themselves as striving in a world of limited resources and fighting uphill, often losing battles. Juxtaposing the experiences of racial/ethnic minorities against the choice journeys of educationally and economically similar white consumers puts those minority experiences in sharp relief. The theoretical and transformative consumer research implications of these findings are discussed.

Date: 2014
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