Social Strain As an Antecedent of Innovativeness Among Subsistence Consumers

This research seeks a more profound understanding of innovative behaviors among subsistence consumers as they seek transformative consumption experiences – transformative in terms of achieving solutions to survival and family well-being problems at the most basic level. Based on observation and interviews with subsistence consumers in several countries, we seek to better understand the strategies and behaviors of innovative subsistence consumers. Having found that not all innovativeness yields positive results, and that transformative consumption experiences can be detrimental instead of beneficial, we seek to identify antecedents to the innovation process that result in both positive and negative outcomes. At the individual-level the data show us that status frustration is an important motivator for the creative recombination of concepts and materials available to poor consumers through experimentation-- a process that can often yield highly innovative problem solutions. The data also suggests that sociological forces, such as social inequality, can impinge on innovativeness and produce undesirable behaviors. Such is the case when subsistence consumers’ yearnings for socially validated life goals (i.e., financial success, greater levels of education) feel that they do not have the same opportunities or means to achieve such goals as other members of society. This gap between and individual’s status expectations and actual achievement results in negative affect which leads his or her to engage in innovative behavior that is damaging to self and others. Multiple examples of the individual- and social-level mechanisms revealed by the data will be discussed.


Jose Antonio Rosa and Stephanie Geiger-Oneto (2009) ,"Social Strain As an Antecedent of Innovativeness Among Subsistence Consumers", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36, eds. Ann L. McGill and Sharon Shavitt, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 114-118.


Jose Antonio Rosa, University of Wyoming, USA
Stephanie Geiger-Oneto, University of Wyoming, USA


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36 | 2009

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