Socioeconomics is the study of the social and economic impacts of any product or service offering, market intervention or other activity on an economy as a whole and on the companies, organisation and individuals who are its main economic actors. These effects can usually be measured in economic and statistical terms, such as growth in the size of the economy, the number of jobs created (or destroyed), or levels of home ownership or Internet penetration; and in measurable social terms such as life expectancy or levels of education. The combination of economic and social factors that influence how an intervention is likely to change a society will be unique to each situation, but generally may include, for example:
- Prevailing economic conditions
- The level of economic development and the extent of disparities within a society
- Political stability and the relationship between government and judiciary
- Levels of education, literacy and familiarity with technology
- Maturity and openness of markets
- Propensity for entrepreneurial activity
- Strength of tradition in terms of beliefs and behaviours
Examples of causes of socioeconomic impacts include new technologies (such as cars or mobile phones), changes in laws (such as the legal right to abortion), changes in the physical environment (such as increasing crowding within cities), and ecological changes (such as prolonged drought or declining fish stocks). These may affect patterns of consumption, the distribution of incomes and wealth, the way in which people behave (both in terms of purchase decisions and the way in which they choose to spend their time), and the overall quality of life. These can further have indirect effects on social attitudes and norms.
In specific cases, socioeconomics studies will necessitate identifying the specific relevant factors, and understanding their status before and then as a consequence of the intervention.
The goal of socioeconomic study is generally to bring about socioeconomic development, usually in terms of improvements in metrics such as GDP, life expectancy, literacy, levels of employment, etc.
Although harder to measure, changes in less tangible soft factors should also be considered. These include issues such as personal dignity, freedom of association, personal safety and freedom from fear of physical harm, and the extent of participation in civil society.
Socioeconomics is itself not an economic theory (though it may use economic theories to understand impacts); neither should it be confused with socialist economics.
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