Peer effects in employment: results from Mexico's poor rural communities
Empirical evidence has shown that off-farm non-agricultural (OFNA) employment offers a major pathway from poverty for rural populations. However, the pattern of participation in these activities is heterogeneous across categories of individuals and poorly understood. We explore the role of spillovers from peers on an individualâ€™s participation in formal and informal OFNA employment using village census data for rural Mexico. We test and reject the possibility that peersâ€™ decisions could be proxying for unobserved individual, village-level, or individual-type effects. We find that peersâ€™ participation in OFNA employment has a large impact on an individualâ€™s ability to engage in this type of employment, both formal and informal, even after controlling for individual attributes and village characteristics. Peer effects are structured by similarities in gender, ethnicity, educational level, and land endowment. We find that marginal peer effects tend to be stronger for categories of individuals that are already more engaged in OFNA employment, such as men, non-indigenous people, the more educated, and the landless, contributing to reinforcing inequalities in accessing these jobs. However, the role of peer effects relative to that of education in obtaining formal OFNA employment is more important for members of groups that are less engaged in these jobs, such as women, indigenous people, the less educated, and smallholders.
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