ABOUT THE CONFERENCE & Nicosia Best Paper Award

The Association for Consumer Research Conference (ACR) is the biggest annual conference for marketing and consumer researchers. This year’s version of Denver (10/20-10/22) was attended by about 1,100 scholars with various research specializations, from numerous countries, representing all continents. The conference featured almost 450 paper presentations, and close to 200 poster presentations, selected from a much wider range of submissions. Jinyan Xiang and Prof. Dr. Mario Pandelaere (both from VT) won the Nicosia Best Paper Award at this year’s conference of the Association for Consumer Research, with their submission “Economic Inequality Shapes Consumers' Engagement in the Sharing Economy”.

Additional information about this award: Established in 1998, and funded by the Sheth Foundation, the Franco Nicosia Best Competitive Paper Award is presented to the author/s of the best competitive paper presented at the North American conference. The winners, selected by the conference chairs, receive a plaque and a financial award.


Summary of methods and findings. This paper is one of Jinyan’s doctoral dissertation essays, advised and chaired by Prof. Dr. Mario Pandelaere, and a part of a larger research stream on inequality that we are conducting. In this paper, we leveraged field data from a sharing economy platform and lab experiments in various sharing economy contexts. These mixed-method studies yield convergent evidence that people are less likely to contribute to and make use of sharing platforms like Airbnb or Uber in areas or with people from areas characterized by high levels of economic inequality. This decrease in people’s engagement in the sharing economy is due to the detrimental impact of inequality on interpersonal trust. Interpersonal trust is a crucial driver of the sharing economy because it helps people overcome the uncertainties associated with interacting with strange peers in sharing incidents. Consequently, any factor that lowers the interpersonal trust between the provider (e.g., an Airbnb host) and the user (e.g., an Airbnb guest), like economic inequality, also lowers people’s engagement in the sharing economy as either providers or users.

Implications of findings. This paper answers the recent research call on studying the perception and influence of economic inequality in consumer research and generates managerial insights for sharing economy platforms. Importantly, they have profound and alarming socioeconomic implications. They allude to potential discrimination and exclusion issues in the sharing economy. First, providers and users from more unequal regions are likely stigmatized as untrustworthy and thus would be more vulnerable to unfair treatment such as the limited number of service requests from users and frequent and unexcused service rejections by providers. In addition, regions with higher economic inequality would face more barriers to participating in and benefiting from this sustainable economic model due to a shrinking provider/user base and a lack of market vitality. Consequently, in the long run, the development of the sharing economy may be hindered by the rising global economic inequality.


Xiang and Pandelaere first heard of winning an award at this year’s ACR conference when they received a very cryptic email from the conference chairs the day before the conference started. The email indicated that the authors had won an award without mentioning what that award would be. It only gave instructions to sit close to the podium for Saturday’s lunch.

Pandelaere. My initial reaction to the email I received was puzzlement. I was not yet informed that Jinyan had received a similar email and I was going over in my head what award this could be. When Jinyan notified me that she had received that email too, I started thinking that maybe Jinyan would be an awardee for the best dissertation proposal and that I, as her dissertation chair, would be asked to share the stage with her. When we were finally announced as winners of the best conference paper, my first thought was disbelief. After all, there were so many presented papers, so the chances of winning this award were extremely low. When Jinyan and I approached the podium to receive our award, I continued to be in a state of disbelief but also took pride in Jinyan’s accomplishments. After all, while I am her dissertation advisor, the credit entirely goes to Jinyan for identifying an interesting research topic, and coming up with creative ways to test her ideas.

Xiang. My initial reaction when I heard the announcement was also disbelief because receiving this highly competitive Nicosia Award is extremely hard. Literally, the chance was one out of hundreds of submissions. When I realized it was real, I felt lucky and grateful, not just because I received this well-valued award, but because peer scholars recognized my research. This is a great encouragement to my research and an important milestone in my early career, boosting my confidence and ambition in doing impactful research that can address socioeconomic issues and improve people’s and societal well-being. Besides, I felt thankful to my advisor—Mario Pandelaere, and other committee members – Prof. Dr. Dipankar Chakravarti, Prof. Dr. Paul Herr., and Prof. Dr. Shilpa Madan who made great comments and suggestions and guided me to refine this research.