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PLoS One. 2015 Aug 5;10(8):e0130695. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130695. eCollection 2015.

Bourdieu's Cultural Capital in Relation to Food Choices: A Systematic Review of Cultural Capital Indicators and an Empirical Proof of Concept.

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Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



Unhealthy food choices follow a socioeconomic gradient that may partly be explained by one's 'cultural capital', as defined by Bourdieu. We aim 1) to carry out a systematic review to identify existing quantitative measures of cultural capital, 2) to develop a questionnaire to measure cultural capital for food choices, and 3) to empirically test associations of socioeconomic position with cultural capital and food choices, and of cultural capital with food choices.


We systematically searched large databases for the key-word 'cultural capital' in title or abstract. Indicators of objectivised cultural capital and family institutionalised cultural capital, as identified by the review, were translated to food choice relevant indicators. For incorporated cultural capital, we used existing questionnaires that measured the concepts underlying the variety of indicators as identified by the review, i.e. participation, skills, knowledge, values. The questionnaire was empirically tested in a postal survey completed by 2,953 adults participating in the GLOBE cohort study, The Netherlands, in 2011.


The review yielded 113 studies that fulfilled our inclusion criteria. Several indicators of family institutionalised (e.g. parents' education completed) and objectivised cultural capital (e.g. possession of books, art) were consistently used. Incorporated cultural capital was measured with a large variety of indicators (e.g. cultural participation, skills). Based on this, we developed a questionnaire to measure cultural capital in relation to food choices. An empirical test of the questionnaire showed acceptable overall internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha of .654; 56 items), and positive associations between socioeconomic position and cultural capital, and between cultural capital and healthy food choices.


Cultural capital may be a promising determinant for (socioeconomic inequalities in) food choices.

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