Against that background, this paper(pdf) from the US Federal Reserve caught my eye. The authors studied the spending patterns of households and linked them with their neighbourhood income distribution. It turns out that people with incomes towards the top end of their local income distribution spend a lot more on high status cars, are more indebted and have riskier portfolios.
So what? This is just how entrepreneurs behave, right? Well not really, because it turns out that this effect varies across neighbourhoods. The authors report
a large positive association between income inequality inside a county and the fraction of high status cars sold. And consistent with the household level results, we also find higher levels of consumer leverage in more unequal counties.
So income inequality does seem to result in conspicuous consumption as Veblen argued in 1899 after observing the last gilded age.