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The structure of social networks and fertility decisions: evidence from S. Nyanza District, Kenya


  • Hans-Peter Kohler

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

  • Jere R. Behrman
  • Susan Cotts Watkins


Demographers have increasingly argued that social interaction is an important mechanism for understanding fertility behavior. Yet, substantial uncertainty exists whether ´social learning´ or ´social influence´ constitutes the dominant mechanism through which social networks affect individual´s contraceptive decisions. This paper argues that thesse mechanism can be distinguished by analyzing the density of the social network ant its interaction with the proportion of contraceptive users among network partners. Our analyses that in areas with high market activity social learning is most relevant, where in regions with only modest market activity social influence constitutes the dominant mechanism of how social networks affect women´s contraceptive use. In areas in which social influence retards diffusion of family planning, therefore, with sufficient market development social learning may become more important than social influence and accelerate diffusion. (AUTHORS)

Suggested Citation

  • Hans-Peter Kohler & Jere R. Behrman & Susan Cotts Watkins, 1999. "The structure of social networks and fertility decisions: evidence from S. Nyanza District, Kenya," MPIDR Working Papers WP-1999-005, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-1999-005

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    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General


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