Standard of living, consumption norms, and perceived necessities

Riikka Aro (Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Terhi-Anna Wilska (Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Publication date: 2 September 2014



The purpose of this paper is to focus on the material conditions of peoples’ daily lives by investigating changes in the self-perceived necessities of ten technology- and leisure-related consumer goods and services between 1999 and 2009. The authors also look at the socio-demographic predictors of the perceptions and the development of the ownership of the goods under investigation.


The data are derived from surveys “Finland – Consumption and way of life” 1999 (N=2,417), 2004 (N=3,574), and 2009 (N=1,202). The statistical analysis methods include ANOVA and descriptive statistics. Also official statistics are used.


Many technological goods, in particular, have become necessities for most people, and the ownership rates have increased notably. Age, type of household, place of residence and gender affected the necessity of most items. Income affected the necessity of expensive goods and services.

Practical implications

The ways goods become social decencies does not always follow economic rationalities or are explained by conventional socio-economic determinants. The meaning of life course stage and related daily practices are probably more important than is usually recognized in social studies. Particularly many ICT goods become socially perceived necessities soon after their emergence, which changes the perceptions of adequate living standards, affecting thus the definition of “basic needs” and related social policy.


The perceptions of necessities and other measures of living standards have been mainly looked at from the viewpoint of poverty and income. This study explains the perceived necessity of goods and services by several socio-demographic variables.



Aro, R. and Wilska, T.-A. (2014), "Standard of living, consumption norms, and perceived necessities", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 34 No. 9/10, pp. 710-728.

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