Keeping up with the Joneses

Residential reinvestment and mansionization in American inner-ring suburbs

Authored by: Suzanne Lanyi Charles

The Routledge Companion to the Suburbs

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138290235
eBook ISBN: 9781315266442
Adobe ISBN:


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Teardown mansionization has proliferated across the American suburban landscape, and despite being maligned on aesthetic grounds it is common in many inner-ring suburbs. The economic literature on conspicuous consumption and positional goods provides a framework for understanding the teardown mansionization phenomenon. This chapter examines this issue by focusing on three suburbs of Chicago that have high rates of teardown mansionization but different physical, social, and economic characteristics, and demonstrates how the process varies across the inner-ring suburban landscape. Households may be motivated in part by a desire to exhibit wealth and status through their housing consumption choices, which is particularly evident in middle-class suburbs, as households seek to emulate the housing consumption patterns of wealthier households. This leads to clustering of teardown mansionization and sets off a cycle that incrementally changes the neighborhood context within which future housing consumption choices are made.

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