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subsistence economy

Definition of Subsistence Economy

(noun) An economy that depends on non-market mechanisms such as reciprocity and redistribution instead of money as a means of production and exchange.

Subsistence Economy Pronunciation

  • IPA Pronunciation
    • American English
      • /səbˈsɪstəns iˈkɑnəmi/
      • /səbˈsɪstəns əˈkɑnəmi/
    • British English
      • /səbˈsɪst(ə)ns ᵻˈkɒnəmi/
  • Syllabification: (sub·sis·tence e·con·o·my)

Usage Notes

  • Plural: subsistence economies
  • Subsistence economies typically meet the minimum needs of the population and but do not create a surplus for trade. Groups that have subsistence economies typically rely on simple technology such as digging sticks and have minimal specialization in their division of labor.
  • Once called natural economy but now rarely used because of the problematic nature of the word “natural.”

Additional Information

Related Terms


Works Consulted

Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Princeton University. 2010. WordNet. (https://wordnet.princeton.edu/)..

Taylor & Francis. (N.d.) Routledge Handbooks Online. (https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/).

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (http://en.wiktionary.org).

Wiley. (N.d.) Wiley Online Library. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/).

Cite the Definition of Subsistence Economy

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “subsistence economy.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved October 13, 2019 (https://sociologydictionary.org/subsistence-economy/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

subsistence economy. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/subsistence-economy/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “subsistence economy.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed October 13, 2019. https://sociologydictionary.org/subsistence-economy/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“subsistence economy.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 13 Oct. 2019. <https://sociologydictionary.org/subsistence-economy/>.