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Revisiting omnivores in America circa 1990s: The exclusiveness of omnivores?

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  • Sociology
  • Education


This study examines the relationship between social status and culture as formulated in Peterson's omnivore–univore thesis. The thesis has often been subjected to empirical investigations using preference or 'likes' data. Analysis of a unique data set (US-General Social Survey 1993) which provides 'likes' as well as 'dislikes' information has shown that certain omnivores draw symbolic boundaries to exclude low-status cultures, i.e. those preferred by low-status people. I re-analysed the data using the MIMIC model which simultaneously derives patterns of cultural tastes and estimates the effects of multiple stratification factors. This uncovers results which contradict previous findings. The results show that high-status people dislike many high-status as well as low-status cultures. The earlier contradicted findings arise from sample selection bias and neglect of patterns in cultural tastes, and simultaneously, multiple stratification axes underlying cultural tastes. Americans' cultural tastes are clearly patterned as well as strongly and orthogonally structured by multiple axes of stratification in addition to education which has often been a dominant focus. A disengagement of omnivorousness from inclusiveness is also proposed to deal with the manifest exclusiveness displayed by the cultural omnivores.

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