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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Alderman, H., J.R. Behrman, H.-P. Kohler, J. Maluccio, and S.C. Watkins. 2001. “Attrition in Longitudinal Household Survey Data: Some Tests for Three Developing Country Samples.” Demographic Research 5(4):79–123. Available on-line at http://www.demographic-research.org
Ashenfelter, O. and A. Krueger. 1994. “Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling From a New Sample of Twins.” American Economic Review 84:1157–74.
Axinn, W.G. and S.T. Yabiku. 2001. “Social Change, the Social Organization of Families, and Fertility Limitation.” American Journal of Sociology 106:1219–61.
Ayodo, A. 1994. “Definitions of the Self in Luo Women’s Orature.” Research in African Literatures 25:121–29.
Becker, G.S. and G.H. Lewis. 1973. “On the Interaction Between the Quantity and Quality of Children.” Journal of Political Economy 81(2, Part 2):S279–88.
Blau, P. M. 1994. Structural Contexts of Opportunities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bongaarts, J. and S. C. Watkins. 1996. “Social Interactions and Contemporary Fertility Transitions.” Population and Development Review 22:639–82.
Bound, J., D.A. Jaeger, and R.M. Baker. 1995. “Problems With Instrumental Variables Estimation When the Correlation Between the Instruments and the Endogenous Explanatory Variable Is Weak.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 90:443–50.
Brass, W. and C.L.E. Jolly. 1993. Population Dynamics of Kenya. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Brewer, D. 2000. “Forgetting in the Recall-Based Elicitation of Personal and Social Networks.” Social Networks 22:29–43.
Brewer, D. and C. Webster. 2000. “Forgetting of Friends and Its Effects on Measuring Friendship Networks.” Social Networks 21:361–73.
Brock, W.A. and S.N. Durlauf. 2001. “Discrete Choice With Social Interactions.” Review of Economic Studies 68:235–60.
Casterline, J.B. 2001. “Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Introduction.” Pp. 1–38 in Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition, edited by J.B. Casterline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Entwisle, B. and J. Godley. 1998. “Village Networks and Patterns of Contraceptive Choice.” Paper presented at a meeting of the Population Committee of the National Academy of Sciences, January 29–30, Washington, DC.
Entwisle, B., R.R. Rindfuss, D.K. Guilkey, A. Chamratrithirong, S.R. Curran, and Y. Sawangdee. 1996. “Community and Contraceptive Choice in Rural Thailand: A Case Study of Nang Rong,” Demography 33:1–11.
Ezeh, A.C. and G. Mboup. 1997. “Estimates and Explanations of Gender Differentials in Contraceptive Prevalence Rates.” Studies in Family Planning 28:104–21.
Fischer, C. 1982. To Dwell Among Friends: Personal Networks in Town and City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Freedman, D. 1999. “From Association to Causation: Some Remarks on the History of Statistics.” Statistical Science 14(3):243–58.
Friedkin, N.E. 1998. A Structural Theory of Social Influence. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Friedkin, N.E. and K.S. Cook. 1990. “Peer Group Influence.” Sociological Methods and Research 19:122–43.
Griliches, Z. 1979. “Sibling Models and Data in Economics: Beginning of a Survey.” Journal of Political Economy 87(2, Part 2):S37–64.
Hsiao, C. 1986. Analysis of Panel Data. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Katz, E. and P.F. Lazarsfeld. 1955. Personal Influence: The Part Played by People in the Flow of Mass Communication. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 1993. 1994. Nairobi, Kenya: National Council for Population and Development, Central Bureau of Statistics, and Calverton, MD. Macro International.
Kohler, H.-P. 1997. “Learning in Social Networks and Contraceptive Choice.” Demography 34:369–83.
— 1998. “Bias in the Estimation of Density on the Basis of Ego-centric Networks With Truncated Size.” Unpublished manuscript, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
— 2000a. “Fertility Decline as a Coordination Problem.” Journal of Development Economics 63:231–63.
— 2000b. “Social Interaction and Fluctuations in Birth Rates.” Population Studies 54:223–38.
— 2001. Fertility and Social Interaction: An Economic Perspective. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Kohler, H.-P., J.R. Behrman, and S.C. Watkins. 2000. “Empirical Assessments of Social Networks, Fertility and Family Planning Programs: Nonlinearities and Their Implications.” Demographic Research 3(7):1–37. Available on-line at http://www.demographic-research.org/volumes/vol3
—. 2001. “The Density of Social Networks and Family Planning Decisions: Evidence From South Nyanza District, Kenya.” Demography 38:43–58.
Manski, C.F. 1993. “Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem.” Review of Economic Studies 60:531–42.
—. 1995. Identification Problems in the Social Sciences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Manski, C.F. and D.S. Nagin. 1998. “Bounding Disagreements About Treatment Effects: A Case Study of Sentencing and Recidivism.” Sociological Methodology 28:99–137.
Marsden, P.V. 1988. “Homogeneity in Confiding Relations.” Social Networks 10:57–76.
Miller, K.A., E.M. Zulu, and S.C. Watkins. 2001. “Gender Roles and Husband-Wife Survey Responses in Malawi.” Studies in Family Planning 32:161–74.
Montgomery, M.R. and J.B. Casterline. 1993. “The Diffusion of Fertility Control in Taiwan: Evidence From Pooled Cross-Section, Time-Series Models.” Population Studies 47:457–79.
—. 1996. “Social Learning, Social Influence, and New Models of Fertility.” Pp. 151–75 in Fertility in the United States: New Patterns, New Theories, Population and Development, edited by J.B. Casterline, R.D. Lee and K.A. Foote. New York: Population Council.
Montgomery, M.R. and W. Chung. 1994. “Social Networks and the Diffusion of Fertility Control: The Korean Case.” Pp. 179–208 in Values and Fertility Change, edited by R. Leete. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Montgomery, M.R., G.-E. Kiros, D. Agyeman, J.B. Casterline, P. Aglobitse, and P.C. Hewett. 2001. “Social Networks and Contraceptive Dynamics in Southern Ghana.” Working Paper No. 153. New York: Population Council.
Moscovici, S. 1985. “Social Influences and Conformity.” Pp. 347–412 in Handbook of Social Psychology, Volume 2, edited by G. Lindzey and E. Aronson. New York: Random House.
Munshi, K. and J. Myaux. 2000. “Social Change and Individual Decisions: With an Application to the Demographic Transition.” Unpublished manuscript, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Palloni, A. 2001. “Diffusion in Sociological Analysis.” Pp. 66–114 in Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition, edited by J.B. Casterline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Pearl, J. 2000. Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Rogers, E.M. 1995. Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free Press.
Rutenberg, N. and S.C. Watkins. 1997. “The Buzz Outside the Clinics: Conversations and Contraception in Nyanza Province, Kenya.” Studies in Family Planning 28:290–307.
Schelling, T.C. 1978. Micromotives and Macrobehavior. New York: W. W. Norton.
Schiller, R.J. 2000. Irrational Exuberance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Short, S.E., F. Chen, B. Entwisle, and Z. Fengying. 2002. “Maternal Work and Child Care in China: A Multi-Method Analysis. Population and Development Review 28:31–57.
“Special Issue: Attrition in Longitudinal Surveys.” Journal of Human Resources Spring 1998.
Stolzenberg, R.M. and D.A. Relles. 1997. “Assessing and Correcting Sample Selection Bias.” American Sociological Review 62:494–507.
Valente, T.W. 1994. Network Models of the Diffusion of Innovations. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Valente, T.W. and W. Saba. 1998. “Mass Media and Interpersonal Influence in a Reproductive Health Communication Campaign in Bolivia.” Communication Research 25:96–124.
—. 2001. “Campaign Recognition and Interpersonal Communication as Factors in Contraceptive Use in Bolivia” Journal of Health Communication 6(4):1–20.
Valente, T.W., S.C. Watkins, M.N. Jato, A. van der Straten, and L.-P. Tsitsol. 1997. “Social Network Associations With Contraceptive Use Among Cameroonian Women in Voluntary Associations.” Social Science and Medicine 45:677–87.
Watkins, S.C. 2000. “Local and Foreign Models of Reproduction in Nyanza Province, Kenya, 1930–1998.” Population and Development Review 26:725–60.
Watkins, S.C. and D. Hodgson. 1998. “From Mercantilists to Neo-Malthusians: The International Population Movement and the Transformation of Population Ideology in Kenya.” Paper presented at the Workshop on Social Processes Underlying Fertility Change in Developing Countries, Committee on Population, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, January 29–30.
Watkins, S.C., N. Rutenberg, and D. Wilkinson. 1997. “Orderly Theories, Disorderly Women.” Pp. 213–45 in The Continuing Demographic Transition, edited by G.W. Jones, R.M. Douglas, J.C. Caldwell and R. M. D’Souza. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.
Watkins, S.C. and I. Warriner. 2000. “How Are Networks Selected?” Unpublished manuscript, Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Weinreb, A. 2001. “First Politics, Then Culture: Accounting for Ethnic Differences in Demographic Behavior in Kenya.” Population and Development Review 27:437–68.
White, K. and S.C. Watkins. 2000. “Accuracy, Stability and Reciprocity in Informal Conversational Networks in Rural Kenya.” Social Networks 366:1–19.
Willis, R.J. 1973. “A New Approach to the Economic Theory of Fertility Behavior.” Journal of Political Economy 81(2, Part. 2):14–64.
Winship, C. and S.L. Morgan. 1999. “The Estimation of Causal Effects From Observational Data.” Annual Review of Sociology 25:659–707.
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.
About this article
Cite this article
Behrman, J.R., Kohler, H. & Watkins, S.C. Social networks and changes in contraceptive use over time: Evidence from a longitudinal study in rural Kenya. Demography 39, 713–738 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2002.0033
- Social Network
- Family Planning
- Unobserved Factor
- Contraceptive User
- Survey Wave