Negotiated Agency in the Face of Consumption Constraints: A Study of Women Entrepreneurs in Subsistence Contexts

Srinivas Venugopal, Madhubalan Viswanathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Millions of women entrepreneurs in subsistence contexts face consumption constraints while embedded in strongly patriarchal social institutions. In these contexts, the place for women is believed to be within the home as homemakers and not in the market as entrepreneurs. Yet these women are able to overcome gender-based institutional barriers and engage with the marketplace as entrepreneurs as a way to overcome consumption constraints. The authors conducted a longitudinal qualitative study of women entrepreneurs in low-income neighborhoods of Chennai, India, to understand (1) what motivates women to overcome the gender-based institutional barriers to entrepreneurial action and (2) how they can overcome the “iron cage” of institutional norms to initiate and sustain entrepreneurial action. The findings help the authors theorize the process of negotiated agency and elaborate on the microprocesses that underlie its enactment. Substantively, they demonstrate how consumption constraints in poverty trigger entrepreneurial agency among low-income women. The authors build on the findings to offer welfare-enhancing policy recommendations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-353
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Public Policy and Marketing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • consumption constraints
  • poverty
  • subsistence entrepreneurship
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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