Luxury Handbags and Higher Education

How a Louis Vuitton bag can explain the higher education bubble

More than a century ago, the sociologist Thorstein Veblen coined the term “conspicuous consumption” to describe the practice of buying luxury goods in order to display social status. In its purest form, conspicuous consumption involves purchasing expensive goods precisely because they are expensive, which means that the true conspicuous consumer will have what economists call an inverted demand curve.

Following this line of thinking casts higher education as a status accessory. These days, that seems about right as the quest for higher education degrees seems to be following the same trajectory as the Dutch tulip craze.

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