The Social Impacts of Products: a Review


Social impact, social sustainability, products, impact assessment, measurable social phenomena, technology assessment


Many agree that every product has economic, environmental, and social impacts on those who use and produce them. While environmental and economic impacts are well known and measures have been developed, our understanding of social impacts is still developing. While efforts have been made to identify social impacts, academics, and practitioners still disagree on which phenomena should be included, and few have focused on the impacts of products specifically compared with programs, policies, or other projects. The primary contribution of this review essay is to integrate scholarship from a wide array of social science and engineering disciplines that categorizes the social phenomena that are affected by products. Specifically, we identify social impacts and processes including population change, family, gender, education, stratification, employment, health and well-being, human rights, networks and communication, conflict and crime, and cultural identity/heritage. These categories are important because they can be used to inform academics and practitioners alike who are interested in creating products that generate positive social benefits for users.

Original Publication Citation

Rainock, Meagan,* Dallin Everett,* Andrew Pack*, Eric Dahlin, and Christopher A. Mattson. 2018. “The Social Impacts of Products: A Review.” Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 36:230- 241.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor