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Born to Buy

Born to Buy

The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture

  • reading group guide
Marketing targeted at kids is virtually everywhere -- in classrooms and textbooks, on the Internet, even at Girl Scout meetings, slumber parties, and the playground. Product placement and other innovations have introduced more subtle advertising to movies and television. Drawing on her own survey research and unprecedented access to the advertising industry, Juliet B. Schor, New York Times bestselling author of The Overworked American, examines how marketing efforts of vast size, scope, and effectiveness have created "commercialized children." Ads and their messages about sex, drugs, and food affect not just what children want to buy, but who they think they are. In this groundbreaking and crucial book, Schor looks at the consequences of the commercialization of childhood and provides guidelines for parents and teachers. What is at stake is the emotional and social well-being of our children.
Like Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, Mary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia, and Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, Born to Buy is a major contribution to our understanding of a contemporary trend and its effects on the culture.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780684870564 | 
  • October 2005
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Introduction

The United States is the most consumer-oriented society in the world. People work longer hours than in any other industrialized country. Savings rates are lower. Consumer credit has exploded, and roughly a million and a half households declare bankruptcy every year. There are more than 46,000 shopping centers in the country, a nearly two-thirds increase since 1986. Despite fewer people per household, the size of houses continues to expand rapidly, with new construction featuring walk-in closets and three- and four-car garages to store record quantities of stuff. According to my estimates, the average adult... see more

Reading Group Guide

Born to Buy

Discussion Points
1. Schor describes a marketing juggernaut of unprecedented size, scope, and sophistication. Why has marketing to children become so much more pervasive and extensive than in the past? What are the major strategies marketers are using in their communications with children?
2. How do you think children are affected by "tweening" (p. 56)? Do you think that children today are maturing at an earlier age? If so, why do you think that is?
3. Schor points out that advertisers have incredible influence over children's views. They are able to promote ideas, like "antiadultism," and manipulate points of view, such as what kids consider "cool." How did forces outside the family become so influential? How can parents regain their central role in educating and advising their children?
4. What do you think about the use of children in developing and marketing potential products? The author discusses some of the unaddressed ethical aspects of using children in this way, but marketers defend their actions, saying they are just trying to make products that kids will like. What about schools' participating in marketing plans? Do you think schools should be marketing-free zones?
5. On page 21, the author describes one marketing company's pitch in which children were represented as wild animals and the advertising companies as the British colonial hunter. Discuss this analogy.
6. Discus see more

About the Author

Juliet B. Schor

Juliet B. Schor is the award-winning author of The Overworked American and The Overspent American. A recognized expert on consumerism, economics, and family studies, she teaches at Boston College and lives in Newton, Massachusetts.




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