The effect of social cohesion and social networks on perceptions of food availability among low-income consumers. Completed Grant Reports

Project ID



Across three studies, this research finds that social factors play an important role in determining the perceptions that these consumers have about their food situation. When reminded about their social networks, low-income consumers report higher levels of food availability. However, this effect holds only if social cohesion is high, indicating that social cohesion acts as a moderator. Another moderator of perceived food availability is the distance at which the social networks are located. When social networks are near (same city), strong and weak social relationships help increase perceptions of food availability. However, when the geographic distance increases (different city), only strong social relationships help. This research finds that self-confidence explains the reason why social factors affect perceived food availability.

Key Question

How do social factors (social cohesion, social networks) affect low-income consumers and their perceptions of food availability?


This research suggests a simple approach to leveraging social networks for the well-being of consumers. Reminding consumers that they do have social support networks might help them feel more self-confident and enhance their well-being. Our research has important implications for food policy makers and marketing practitioners serving subsistence consumers. Our findings indicate that low-income consumers respond favorably to social cues. We suggest that food marketers use social cues to create favorable attitudes among low-income consumers with the goal of helping them make healthier food choices. This will help address some of the concerns of having consumers make calorie rich but nutritionally poor choices. Our findings on self-confidence, social closeness and geographic distance can also inform policy. For example, policy makers can make vulnerable consumers more inclined toward making healthy food choices by boosting their self-confidence through appropriate social networks.

Principal Investigator(s)

Priyanka Jayashankara


Sekar Rajub

Year of Grant Completion


Link to Published Article

Jayashankar, P., & Raju, S. (2020). The effect of social cohesion and social networks on perceptions of food availability among low-income consumers. Journal of Business Research, 108, 316-323. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.10.028

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