, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 713-738

Social networks and changes in contraceptive use over time: Evidence from a longitudinal study in rural Kenya

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The impacts of social networks on changes in contraception in rural Kenya are investigated using special data from a longitudinal household survey. An analytic model, informed by detailed knowledge of the setting, yielded estimates that indicate that (1) social networks have substantial effects even after unobserved factors (e.g., homophily) that may determine social networks are controlled; (2) controlling for these unobserved factors may substantially alter the estimated effects of networks (these controls were not used in previous studies); (3) network effects are important for both men and women; and (4) network effects are nonlinear and asymmetric, suggesting that networks provide information primarily through social learning, rather than by exerting social influence.

W.R.Kenan, Jr. Professor of Economics
Kohler gratefully acknowledges the support of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, where he was head of the research group on Social Dynamics and Fertility while this research was conducted. This research was supported, in part, by NIH RO1 HD37276-01 (Behrman and Watkins, co-principal investigators), the TransCoop Program of the German-American Academic Council (Kohler, principal investigator), and NIH P30-AI45008 and the Social Science Core of the Penn Center for AIDS Research (Behrman and Watkins, co-principal investigators on the pilot project). The data used in this article were collected with funding from USAID’s Evaluation Project (Watkins and Naomi Rutenberg, co-principal investigators) and the Rockefeller Foundation (for a larger project, including Malawi, with Watkins and Eliya Zulu, co-principal investigators). This article is a revised version of a paper presented at the 2001 meetings of the Population Association of America in Washington, DC, and has benefitted from comments of the participants in the session, particularly John Casterline, Laurie DeRose, Mark R. Montgomery and Mark Pitt, and from the useful comments of the editor and two referees. The three authors contributed equally to this article.