Is a friend in need a friend indeed? Inclusion and exclusion in mutual insurance networks in southern Ghana
Mutual insurance has been shown, theoretically and empirically, to be incomplete and limited by asymmetric information and lack of enforcement mechanisms. While some research has shown that networks based on kinship, neighborhood and ethnicity may provide a locus of insurance and thus a way of overcoming these problems, these studies are not fine enough to predict the inclusion and exclusion of individuals. Using data from rural Ghana, we examine the role of social relations in obtaining assistance in the face of shocks. We examine this at both the intra-household and community levels. At the household level, asking for and receiving assistance from the spouse is related to gender, the quality of the marital relationship, and the wealth of household members. At the community level, asking for and receiving help are correlated with membership in a major lineage, participation in secular organizations, the individual's fostering history, and anticipated land inheritance. We also show that these factors differ depending on whether the shortfall was for a household or personal item (as perceived by the respondent). This work helps us to identify individuals who are more likely to fall outside of mutual insurance networks and require interventions to help them cope with risk.
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