Kids & Cul-De-Sacs: Census 2000 and the Reproduction of Consumer Culture

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Kysar, Douglas A
review description
This Review takes an inquisitive tour through the 2000 Census of Population and Housing, focusing especially on its role as the statistical foundation of marketing efforts by retail firms. The underlying motivation for the project is a suspicion that, at least if the industries' own words before Congress are to be believed, the decennial census confers a significant positive externality (some might say a hidden subsidy) on retail and marketing firms. Over the years, the census has provoked a number of social, political, and economic controversies. Little attention, however, has been given to the role of the census in fostering the creation and maintenance of markets for consumer goods. Indeed, it has only been during the preparations for the 2000 census that the use of census data in marketing has achieved even slight salience outside specialized management textbooks and consumer research journals. Thus, in addition to providing a descriptive account of the population census and its various uses by commercial entities, this Review also attempts to provide a framework for determining whether the census marketing externality merits more serious normative consideration.