Making the Mass White: How Racial Segregation Shaped Consumer Segmentation

  • Marcel Rosa-SalasEmail author


The prevailing wisdom in many US marketing circles is that Whites do not comprise a discrete consumer segment. However, just because Whiteness is not explicitly named in marketing discourse does not mean that advertisers have never targeted a White market. Over the course of the twentieth century, Whiteness has been rendered synonymous with the marketing industry’s unmarked category for the average American consumer. First known in industry terminology as the “mass market” but currently termed the “general market,” the historical development of these concepts is inextricably tied to the long-standing practice of racial segregation in the USA. This chapter offers a historical survey and analysis of the racialized invention of the mass market in American marketing discourse and argues that by centering Whiteness and separating people of color as distinct from the mass, American market research and segmentation practices serve as key sites of knowledge production through which the politics of racial segregation are both mirrored and maintained.


Multicultural marketing Whiteness Market research General market Mass market Racial capitalism Middletown Norm Racial statistics Consumer segmentation Racial segregation 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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