Loading the player...

What is 'Affluenza'

Affluenza is a social condition arising from the desire to be more wealthy or successful or to "keep up with the Joneses." Affluenza is symptomatic of a culture that holds up financial success as one of the highest achievements. People said to be affected by affluenza typically find the very economic success they have been so vigorously chasing ends up leaving them feeling unfulfilled and wishing for yet more wealth.

BREAKING DOWN 'Affluenza'

Proponents of affluenza theory stipulate that those affected often have trouble functioning in normal society and distinguishing between right and wrong, as the bubble of privilege in which they reside insulates them from understanding how the rest of the world works and developing empathy for those with more modest backgrounds.

Causes and Symptoms

Affluenza is most present in economically viable countries such as the United States, where the culture is one that prides itself on possessions and financial success. Mainstream media outlets, such as television broadcasts, tend to show how pervasive the idea has become. Those afflicted feel that money can buy happiness but often find the pursuit of wealth robs them of more happiness than is gained by financial success.

Further, in a society of growing income inequality, those with financial privilege are more likely to sequester themselves from the population at large. This social construct fosters a sense of entitlement that can be self-perpetuating, as the wealthy feel they have earned their way into that class with superior intellect or talent, and thus standard rules of society do not apply to them.

Symptoms of affluenza include myopic focus on work and earning money, strained personal relationships, depression, a self-image tied directly to financial status, and difficulty functioning in society or relating to others.

Examples of Affluenza

In December 2013, a Texas teenager who struck and killed four pedestrians while driving drunk was sentenced to 10 years of probation and zero jail time after his attorney successfully argued his affluent and privileged upbringing precluded his ability to understand the consequences of his actions.

In June 2016, a Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting a female student on campus received a six-month jail sentence, of which he is expected to serve only half. While reading the sentence and justifying its leniency, the judge in the case cited the student's age and lack of criminal history, and also stated he felt a prison sentence "would have a severe impact on him." Critics allege this was an allusion to the student's wealth and sheltered upbringing, and the judge prioritized protecting the student's interests over ensuring justice was served.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Culture Shock

    A feeling of uncertainty, confusion or anxiety that people experience ...
  2. Social Economics

    A branch of economics that focuses on the relationship between ...
  3. Social Justice

    Social Justice is the idea that all members of society deserve ...
  4. Corporate Culture

    The beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees ...
  5. Wealth

    A measure of the value of all of the assets of worth owned by ...
  6. Student Debt

    Money owed on a loan taken out to pay for educational expenses. ...
Related Articles
  1. Insights

    What's Affluenza?

    Affluenza​ is a social condition that stems from the desire to be more wealthy or successful.
  2. Financial Advisor

    7 Sentences Successful People Never Say

    Success & wealth are not something that can be accomplished overnight. Here, we interviewed more than a thousand millionaires to find out their secrets.
  3. Managing Wealth

    College Students are Failing Financial Literacy

    Financial trends among college students are a cause for concern, prompting a renewed emphasis on financial literacy.
  4. Financial Advisor

    10 Common Traits of Wealthy Investors

    Here are 10 common traits the wealthy share that financial advisors should keep in mind when looking to attract HNWI clients.
  5. Personal Finance

    Four Critical Financial Decisions Facing College Students

    The financial decisions students make in college can affect academic achievement, well-being and post-graduate success.
  6. Investing

    Investment Choices For Wealthy People

    Here is an overview of some investment vehicles that are available to wealthy investors.
  7. Investing

    NY Fed Says 15% of Americans Have Negative Wealth

    A study has found 15% of Americans are experiencing negative wealth.
  8. Managing Wealth

    10 Habits of Successful People

    10 of the most-often cited habits of people who have enjoyed success in business and in life.
  9. Personal Finance

    Does It Make Sense to Go to College in Europe?

    If you're deciding whether to get a degree abroad, first do your research and talk to alumni who have completed the same program.
  10. Financial Advisor

    Wealthy Clients: How Advisors Can Nab More of Them

    Wealth management firms still only manage a minority of the assets of high net worth individuals. Here are some insights into how to tap their market.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Is it legal to invest my student loan money?

    Take a risk investing student loans and encounter a legal and moral gray area as well as possible financial challenges along ... Read Answer >>
  2. Is globalization purely an economic phenomenon?

    Take a look at the complex scope of the term "globalization", and learn why the term applies in many contexts beyond the ... Read Answer >>
  3. Can student loans be used to pay rent?

    In most cases, loans can be used for housing costs, but students should still plan to have some cash on hand. Read Answer >>
  4. In what types of societies does limited government work best?

    See what a society needs to function with a limited government, and how social cooperation can be achieved through voluntary ... Read Answer >>
  5. Why are private student loans generally more expensive than federal loans?

    Make the right decision between a federal student loan and a private student loan when looking for financial aid for your ... Read Answer >>
  6. Why do most economists favor capitalism?

    Learn more about how capitalism works and why it is a popular system among economists throughout the world. Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. 403(b) Plan

    A retirement plan for certain employees of public schools, tax-exempt organizations and certain ministers. Generally, retirement ...
  2. Master Of Business Administration - MBA

    A graduate degree achieved at a university or college that provides theoretical and practical training to help graduates ...
  3. Liquidity Event

    An event that allows initial investors in a company to cash out some or all of their ownership shares and is considered an ...
  4. Job Market

    A market in which employers search for employees and employees search for jobs. The job market is not a physical place as ...
  5. Yuppie

    Yuppie is a slang term denoting the market segment of young urban professionals. A yuppie is often characterized by youth, ...
  6. SEC Form 13F

    A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), also known as the Information Required of Institutional Investment ...
Trading Center