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Idle Chatter or Learning? Evidence from Rural Tanzania of Social Learning about Clinicians and the Health System


  • Adelman, Sarah W.
  • Essam, Timothy M.
  • Leonard, Kenneth L.


We examine data from rural Arusha region in Tanzania in which households are asked to recall the illness episodes of randomly chosen other households in their village. We analyze the probability that a household would be able to recall another illness episode as a function of the characteristics of the illness, the location and type of health care chosen and the outcome experienced. Households are more likely to recall severe illnesses and illnesses for which good quality care is important, illnesses that resulted in visits to hospitals or when the patient was not cured. In addition, households are more likely to recall illnesses that resulted in a visit to a facility where the average tenure of clinicians is less than two years old. The results are consistent with a model in which households deliberately collect information in order to learn about clinicians and facilities in their local area.

Suggested Citation

  • Adelman, Sarah W. & Essam, Timothy M. & Leonard, Kenneth L., 2008. "Idle Chatter or Learning? Evidence from Rural Tanzania of Social Learning about Clinicians and the Health System," Working Papers 42884, University of Maryland, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:umdrwp:42884

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Marcel Fafchamps & Bart Minten, 1999. "Relationships and traders in Madagascar," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(6), pages 1-35.
    2. Das, Jishnu & Hammer, Jeffrey, 2004. "Which doctor? Combining vignettes and item response to measure doctor quality," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3301, The World Bank.
    3. Foster, Andrew D & Rosenzweig, Mark R, 1995. "Learning by Doing and Learning from Others: Human Capital and Technical Change in Agriculture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1176-1209, December.
    4. Timothy Conley & Udry Christopher, 2001. "Social Learning Through Networks: The Adoption of New Agricultural Technologies in Ghana," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 83(3), pages 668-673.
    5. Russell, Steven, 2005. "Treatment-seeking behaviour in urban Sri Lanka: Trusting the state, trusting private providers," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(7), pages 1396-1407, October.
    6. Timothy G. Conley & Christopher R. Udry, 2010. "Learning about a New Technology: Pineapple in Ghana," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 35-69, March.
    7. Fafchamps, Marcel, 2000. "Ethnicity and credit in African manufacturing," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 205-235, February.
    8. Leonard, Kenneth L, 2007. "Learning in Health Care: Evidence of Learning about Clinician Quality in Tanzania," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(3), pages 531-555, April.
    9. Feder, Gershon & Just, Richard E & Zilberman, David, 1985. "Adoption of Agricultural Innovations in Developing Countries: A Survey," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 255-298, January.
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    More about this item


    learning; health care; trust; social networks; Community/Rural/Urban Development; Health Economics and Policy; I1; O1; O2;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy


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