Top Income

“The brand most predictive of top income in 1992 is Grey Poupon Dijon mustard. By 2004, the brand most indicative of the rich is Land O’Lakes butter, followed by Kikkoman soy sauce. By the end of the sample, ownership of Apple products (iPhone and iPad) tops the list. Knowing whether someone owns an iPad in 2016 allows us to guess correctly whether the person is in the top or bottom income quartile 69 percent of the time. Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016.”

OK, Grey Poupon mustard isn’t fancy at all. The one I buy is at least twice the price. We only buy Land O’Lakes butter because N has some weird attachment to it. We have no tablets in the house and nobody has an iPhone. I hate the brand and find it deeply deficient. My sister showed me her iPhone today, and it has no opening for headphones even. It’s total crap.

This test sucks.

27 thoughts on “Top Income

    1. You can’t use generic headphones and you can’t use any headphones while charging because there isn’t a separate opening.

      I had no idea people would start getting sensitive about Apple. I have Samsung Android. Feel free to rubbish it as much as you like. I’m not emptionally attached.


      1. I am not sure which iPhone model you are referring to. But I use my generic pair of headphones (not Apple) with mine when I’m traveling, and it has an independent port from the charging port (which I thought was the norm) !?

        P.S.1: In fact, the above is an exception to the rule followed by Apple, where they usually make their electronics compatible with exclusive Apple accessories alone.
        P.S.2: I was actually a pretty late convert to smartphones, and though I do use an iPhone, I have no particular preference or sensitivity towards/against it. My comment was said as a factual statement.


  1. I bought Land O Lakes butter here last week because it was on sale cheaper than any other brand available.


      1. Irish butter is truly wonderful, the best butter I’ve ever had though was Portuguese, from the Azores. I don’t know what they put into it but it is frickin’ good enough to eat on its own.


  2. . “By 2016, watching Love It or List It and Property Brothers, both HGTV shows, were the most indicative of being educated.” [TC: yikes!]

    Educated people love flipping houses? Or renovating them? Hi, mom!

    6. Voting and “trusting people” are among the “social attitudes” that best predict being rich.

    Makes sense?

    10. Liberals are more likely to drink alcohol, conservatives are more likely to go fishing.
    But the chances of nobody drinking during a day of fishing are…small.

    By the end of the sample, ownership of Apple products (iPhone and iPad) tops the list. Knowing whether someone owns an iPad in 2016 allows us to guess correctly whether the person is in the top or bottom income quartile 69 percent of the time. Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016.”
    Apple products are walled gardens. Furthermore, if your Apple computer is over five years old, Apple stops officially supporting it with repairs and parts. The Apple store is always packed with people even if it’s a mid Monday afternoon. Do you think a poor person who uses their products into the ground and doesn’t have flexible time is going to mess with a product like that? iPhones are status symbols and most decorative cases are made for them, not Androids.

    My sister showed me her iPhone today, and it has no opening for headphones even.
    Airbuds. LOL. Are they more durable than Apple keyboards?


    1. The ULTIMATE point to make about a status-oriented brand like Apple.
      No doubt their products are fine entities, but it’s the WAY they market and service these products that promote imagery over practicality.


    2. I didn’t get the flipping shows either. I watched one once and almost died of boredom.

      Educated people love American Greed. That’s a really good show.


    3. I have Airbuds but I don’t use them because it’s beyond inconvenient. I’m always afraid of losing them, plus they have internal issues that make the sound all creepy.


  3. Grey Poupon doesn’t seem fancy now, but there was a time when the only mustard you could find in an ordinary supermarket was the bright yellow stuff. Grey Poupon was marketed very heavily in the 1980s and I’m pretty sure that was my first awareness that there were different kinds of mustard. It’s never been an expensive brand, but in 1992 it probably indicated a willingness to try new foods and that is why it was an indicator of wealth.

    I’m not sure about Land O’Lakes in 2004, but it could be that wealthier people were leading the switch from margarine back to real butter. The only person I knew who used butter in the 70s and 80s was one of my grandmothers and that was because she was so old fashioned that she had never switched to using margarine.

    I agree on the Apple products. The Apple fans will go on and on about how well built they are, but they always seem to be taking them in for repairs.


  4. Kikkoman soy sauce?!? It’s barely different in price from off brand soy sauce, but it does have a “low sodium” option. Maybe it was way harder to find in the 90’s?

    I don’t know where Flip or Flop lands on the educated/uneducated axis, and now I desperately need to know 😆


    1. “Kikkoman soy sauce?!? It’s barely different in price from off brand soy sauce, but it does have a “low sodium” option. Maybe it was way harder to find in the 90’s?”

      I think it has less to do with the price than the fact that you were open to cooking ‘new’ cuisines back in the 90s. Food channels and the internet have made it sort of easy to dive into unfamiliar cuisines, but it was probably much harder back then.

      Just guessing.


    2. I remember Kikkoman as pretty mainstream in the late 1980s early 1990s and popular specifically for the low sodium variety (which I thought had a better taste than the straight stuff).


  5. You’re right that Grey Poupon isn’t fancy now. However, the consumer and sociocultural landscape of 1992 in the US was very different.

    In 1992, most US supermarkets, especially outside of big cities, had one or two mustard brands. Sometimes, if you were very lucky indeed, three. Grey Poupon was at the time vastly better than these two or three meager choices (by today’s standards), but was so expensive my family never bought it.

    Now, many grocery stores have more than a dozen mustard brands, and some for for $14 and above for a small bottle. I’ve seen a few supermarkets with entire wide shelves of just mustard, something you’d never see anywhere in 1992.

    The best mustard in the world, though, is Boetje’s. It’s the only mustard I could eat plain. It’s so superior to every other brand it’s nearly inconceivable that it isn’t sold more places.


    1. Instead of giving consumers a true variety of products to choose from they offer 10 versions of essentially the same product in different forms.
      Sigh! Modern-day marketing ……


  6. Remember this isn’t about objective quality or rarity, it’s all about identity so the actual quality of the products is secondary to them (briefly) catching the imagination of the affluent. Those who see themselves as arbiters of taste (on the basis of their wealth) are constantly changing favorite brands as a sort of insiders code.

    “Oh you have Kikkoman… ” can be a welcome mat or the kiss of death, it’s all about timing.

    As far as chaning food in the US goes, at least as long ago as the 1960s (that I remember) some supermarkets would have a small section devoted to ‘gourmet’ foods (usually ‘exotic’ novelty products) and maybe another for ‘foreign’ foods, mass market ‘mexican’, ‘chinese’ or New York (ie Jewish) stuff and also where I discovered ramen in the mid 1970s – a blessed, blessed event.


  7. Well, the linked blog post refers to an academic article that may explain the metrics. I don’t remember grocery availability being that different in the 90s, is it because of always living in cities or if not, in towns with universities? It’s also not true that recipes weren’t available pre-Internet. People had large cookbook libraries, checked cookbooks out from libraries, subscribed to food magazines, watched food shows on tv, all sorts of things. I do remember those gourmet and foreign aisles in the 60s and I think 50s.

    Kikkoman — my mother had it in the 50s and 60s, even. You got it at any normal supermarket. It’s an old brand, correctly brewed, and comes directly from Japan. The alternative was some kind of off brand that might not have been pure and/or was created in some weird way. Grey Poupon — I guess. When I was a child there were about 10 kinds of mustard and they were all very different. Grey Poupon was for people who wanted something better than French’s but weren’t really sure what to do so grasped at whatever they could get. I don’t like Dijon mustard no matter who makes it. I remember Maille and Pommery as desirable and will still buy them when I can find them. What I remember about food in the 50s and 60s was that mixes, canned and powdered things were more prevalent than now — I think now people buy full-on frozen meals rather than cook with those things, or get take-out. And we definitely spend more on food. 70s and 80s was when people went back to non-frozen vegetables and non-instant coffee; also, you started to get things like non-industrialized cheese more easily.

    Land O’Lakes — in a bad supermarket it may be the best choice they have and the only unsalted one, but it is hardly gourmet butter. It feels homey to me to buy it because I have done often, with it being the best option available and all, so the box reminds me of cozy childhood and also my first apartments, when it was still novel to have bought all the food myself and I was proud of every item. I guess it is or was elite just because of not being the generic brand that was often the only option.

    Salted butter — salt makes it last longer. Maybe that is why, in a bad supermarket, unsalted is hard to find.

    Apple — I thought it was for people who could not operate computers. I have reasons to really like their travel laptops. But I am embarrassed to be seen in public with an Apple because I am afraid people will think I am too inept to run a DOS, Windows, or Linux.

    What do Volvos mean? To me they mean someone middle class who splurged on a product they liked, the way I do on some other things, but I am told they are something more than that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I grew up in a rural area in the 70s and 80s and my family shopped in several nearby towns. I think the availability of groceries and different types of foods in places like that has grown and changed enormously since the 80s. I remember being amazed at the variety of foods available when I started college in a small college town in the early 90s, there was definitely a big difference between the small-town / city-college town availability then. When I visit my parents now, the grocery stores have most of the same things I can find in the much larger city where I live now.


      1. So true. The grocery stores in my area have changed a lot in the last 10 years. The produce section exploded and the frozen meats section shrank.


        1. My parents lived in Seattle in the 50s and said it was a food desert. They had to come home to California so as not to starve, basically, they said. Or just live on potatoes and vanilla ice cream and a limited menu of other very bland and processed things. Except for the fish, of course! (Perhaps this is why my favorite food is fish, it was the only decent thing available.)


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