The material possessions of Israeli ethnic groups

Moshe Semyonov*, Noah Lewin-Epstein, Seymour Spilerman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The present research focuses on ethnic disparities in standard of living, as reflected in ownership of household goods. The study examines the extent to which inequality in the possession of household goods is due to ethnic differences in earnings, wealth, and social and demographic characteristics -that is, family resources - versus ethnic styles and preferences. Using the 1986-7 Family Expenditure Survey (conducted by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics), three major ethnic groups (i.e. European-American Jews, Asian-African Jews, and Arabs) are compared. Eleven household items were selected to construct two scales: labour-saving appliances and leisure-oriented devices. The data reveal that ethnic inequality, which has been repeatedly observed in the labour market, is also evident with regard to standard of living. The data further demonstrate that the effects of ethnicity differ considerably for the two types of household goods. What is of particular interest is the fact that the disparity in ownership of goods (either labour-saving or leisure-oriented) cannot be fully explained by differences in earnings and wealth, together with social and demographic attributes of the household units. The findings suggest that theoretical models that are invoked to explain individual performance and outcomes in the labour market, are less useful for understanding family well-being, living standards, and family decisions. Other alternative explanations, including ethnic styles, preferences, and extra-market family resources, are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-301
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996


FundersFunder number
Bi-National Science Foundation90-00334
Israel Foundation Trustees14
Pinhas Sapir Center for Development


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