The Stigmatized Consumer: Role Of Language And Diversity On Consumer Behavior

Esther Uduehi, University of Pennsylvania


While millions of consumers deal with various stigmatized identities such as obesity, homelessness, and substance use disorders, little is known about how identity cues within the marketplace may influence how they are perceived and supported by others as well as when these cues are most effective in attracting stigmatized consumers. This dissertation investigates how language (e.g., homeless person versus person experiencing homelessness) and cultural diversity influences various consumption behaviors for both stigmatized and non-stigmatized consumers. Essay 1 deals with how language choices used for stigmatized groups may be driven by lay beliefs surrounding the stigmatized identity. Using lab experiments and archival data, my work suggests that when people condition as more changeable, they are more likely to identity-first (vs. person-first) language. Essay 2 addresses how language choices, specifically person-first language, may lead to increased motivation to engage with brands and feelings of inclusivity for stigmatized consumers. Essay 3 explores the use of cultural diversity within marketing schemes and its impact on market reaction for Black and White consumers. Through lab studies, my work suggests that using multicultural diversity by brands focused on marginalized consumers may lead to less positive market reaction. These essays provide a straightforward yet nuanced approach for organizations to improve experiences for all stigmatized consumers in both society and the marketplace.