Reframing economic vulnerability via resilient pathways

As a researcher working closely with community groups and organisations representing the interests of economically vulnerable people, I believe it is vital to interrupt the passive dialogue often associated with those who live with the chronic strain of economic disadvantage. When we examine studies on the health and well-being of women in particular, there is an overwhelming emphasis on what is known as the vulnerability-deficit model of girls and women, where economically disadvantaged women are depicted as powerless and deficient in how they manage their everyday lives.  After spending almost a year with diverse groups of women conducting research on the strain of low-income, I was struck by their strength, resourcefulness and by the unpredictable ways in which they simultaneously attended to their own well-being, and the well-being of others.  Yet, despite these observations, few published studies have actively explored the factors that influence women’s overall resilience in such high risk contexts, with the components of resilience, and how it manifests from economic vulnerability poorly understood.

My empirical paper, Neither passive nor powerless: reframing economic vulnerability via resilient pathways, recently published in the JMM Special Issue on Consumer Vulnerability, examines how low-income women strive to reframe their relationship to the market via resilient pathways.

These “resilient pathways” are defined as distinct coping trajectories comprising of multi-dimensional coping resources to aid positive adaptation during economic adversity. 

Specifically, the paper introduces active agency, self-care practices and relational coping as new ways of framing resilience as an emerging construct within the contemporary field of consumer vulnerability.

The possession of coping resources is instrumental in resilience, and an individual’s well-being is dependent on their access to resources within their particular ecological niche in order for them to successfully adapt.  Typically, the resources identified in resilience scholarship lean heavily towards personality-based resources. However,

the findings outlined in my paper provide an important insight into how resilient pathways are in fact comprised of multi-dimensional coping resources.  Characterising resources as multi-dimensional offers a new way forward in understanding resilience from a low-income perspective, as these resources are dynamic and creatively constituted by women in the absence of economic means.

The interplay between the resources identified, and the resilience of women in this study, clearly highlight how resources transfer and rotate to foster empowerment in economically vulnerable groups.

By providing accounts of both the structural reality in which women live and their powerful ways of managing, the paper surfaces forms of resilience that have not been previously documented.  Resilient pathways empower women to (re)assert themselves in vulnerable contexts, thus overturning deficit-focused views, about how those facing chronic economic disadvantage circumvent the tension and strain that surrounds them.

Read the original research article: Hutton, M. (2016). Neither passive nor powerless: reframing economic vulnerability via resilient pathways. Journal of Marketing Management, 32(3-4), 252-274.

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Martina Hutton

Martina Hutton

Martina Hutton is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Winchester. Her research explores the intersection of consumer stress, poverty and resilient coping efforts.  As a participatory researcher, she active engages with diverse groups of people experiencing economic vulnerability.  Her work has appeared in the Journal of Marketing Management and the Journal of Business Research.

Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this posting are the views of the Author(s), and are not necessarily the views of the JMM Editors, Westburn Publishers Ltd. or Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.