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Social Networks, HIV/AIDS and Risk Perceptions

Author

Listed:
  • Jere Behrman

    () (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

  • Hans-Peter Kohler

    () (Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania)

  • Susan C. Watkins

    () (Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract

Understanding the determinants of individuals’ perceptions of their risk of becoming infected with HIV and their perceptions of acceptable strategies of prevention is an essential step towards curtailing the spread of this disease. We focus in this paper on learning and decision-making about AIDS in the context of high uncertainty about the disease and appropriate behavioral responses, and we argue that social interaction is an important determinant of risk perceptions and the acceptability of behavioral change. Using longitudinal survey data from rural Kenya and Malawi, we test this hypothesis. We investigate whether social interactions—and especially the extent to which social network partners perceive themselves to be at risk –exert causal influences on respondents’ risk perceptions and on one approach to prevention, spousal communication about the threat of AIDS to the couple and their children. The study explicitly allows for the possibility that important characteristics, such as unobserved preferences or community characteristics, determine not only the outcomes of interest but also the size and composition of networks. The most important empirical result is that social networks have significant and substantial effects on risk perception and the adoption of new behaviors even after controlling for unobserved factors.

Suggested Citation

  • Jere Behrman & Hans-Peter Kohler & Susan C. Watkins, 2003. "Social Networks, HIV/AIDS and Risk Perceptions," PIER Working Paper Archive 03-007, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:03-007
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Charles F. Manski, 2000. "Economic Analysis of Social Interactions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 115-136, Summer.
    3. 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.
    4. Matthew Rabin, 1998. "Psychology and Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 11-46, March.
    5. Arellano, Manuel & Honore, Bo, 2001. "Panel data models: some recent developments," Handbook of Econometrics,in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 53, pages 3229-3296 Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. Doss, Cheryl R. & McPeak, John G. & Barrett, Christopher B., 2005. "Perceptions of Risk within Pastoralist Households in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia," 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI 19504, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    2. OUEDRAOGO, Salmata, 2008. "Social effect and female genital mutilation (FGM)," MPRA Paper 17847, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. FFF1Christoph NNN1Bühler & FFF2Hans-Peter NNN2Kohler, 2003. "Talking about AIDS," Demographic Research Special Collections, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 1(13), pages 397-438, September.
    4. Doss, Cheryl & McPeak, John & Barrett, Christopher B., 2008. "Interpersonal, Intertemporal and Spatial Variation in Risk Perceptions: Evidence from East Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 1453-1468, August.
    5. Jimi Adams & Jenny Trinitapoli, 2009. "The Malawi Religion Project:," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 21(10), pages 255-288, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    health; AIDS; information; social networks; Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • I19 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Other

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