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Socio-economic analysis is an umbrella term for theories that marry economic factors with impacts on human sociology. At its crux, socio-economic analysis uses economic inputs to drive social change. It is a type of analysis that is commonly used to structure community development programs.
Figuring out why people act as they do and prompting them to change their behavior is typically the purview of the social sciences, like sociology. Sociology drives human services occupations, such as social workers or case workers, and the programs these workers run. These social science positions interact with a community on a needs basis. Often, their jobs are to identify and direct people to programs and services that can fulfill their needs.
Interacting with communities on a needs basis is grounded in the notion of social welfare and the burgeoning role of governments in providing support and benefits to people who cannot meet their own basic needs. Welfare programming goes in an out of favor with the political winds, however. New paradigms have emerged in an attempt to stabilize support for work being done to alleviate poverty that emphasize building social capital, or internal competencies, rather than what can be perceived as providing handouts. Socio-economic analysis is one of those paradigms that tries to impose a different construct on behaviors and conditions that lead to poverty.
International economic development is, perhaps, the best example of the use of socio-economic analysis. Historically, economic development in third world countries consisted of providing monetary assistance to governments or funding government-identified economic projects, such as building roads. Often, these measures had little affect on the conditions of families at the local level, and, in some instances, has a detrimental impact. Resources that were identified as critical by governments often never made it into the hands of local communities, and economic development projects sometimes led to further community disruption or dispersal.
Socio-economic analysis imposes a different method of identifying and addressing community needs. Instead of inserting help at the top in hopes that it trickles down, socio-economic programming empowers a community to identify its own needs and uses economic inputs to address those needs. So, instead of giving a community a handout, socio-economic programming provides education, job training, access to capital and markets and other benefits that are tied to economic indicators such as educational attainment and small-business development.
It is also easier to measure the success of social programming when it is designed in economic terms. Basic needs-based sociology can only make subjective measurements, based on a person's claim that a benefit was put to its intended purpose and served as a ameliorating supplement. Using economic inputs, on the other hand, means that a program can quantitatively measure actual change, such as how many people attained a certain level of education.