Rejected, Shackled, and Alone: The Impact of Systemic Restricted Consumer Choice on Minority Consumers’ Construction of Self (Updated)

Sterling A. Bone, Utah State University
Glenn L. Christensen, Brigham Young University
Jerome D. Williams, Rutgers University

This article investigates the experience of systemic restricted choice and its impact on self- construction among racial and ethnic minority consumers seeking loans. Encountering restricted choice at a subordinate level of the goal/choice hierarchy limits minorities’ ability to make desired choices, requiring a reworking of the supporting choice hierarchy. Across three studies, we demonstrate that minority consumers face barriers beyond their control that circumscribe their ability to make marketplace choices and thus lead to debilitating outcomes to the self. While both white and minority respondents describe their goal of obtaining access to capital as a journey, minority respondents describe it as an uphill battle with systemic restrictions, in which they frame the self as fettered, imprisoned, and slavelike. Conversely, white respondents describe a difficult journey, but with likely success and without systemic impediments, and frame the self with feelings of enhanced autonomy and self-esteem. Minorities also describe the experience of felt discrimination, with perceptions of systemic restrictions attributed to race.

 

Bone, Sterling A., Glenn L. Christensen, and Jerome D. Williams (2014), “Rejected, Shackled, and Alone: The Impact of Systemic Restricted Choice on Minority Consumers’ Construction of Self,” Journal of Consumer Research, 41 (2), 451-474.