Learning in Social Networks and Contraceptive Choice

Hans‐Peter Kohler

in Fertility and Social Interaction

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780199244591
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596544 | DOI:
 Learning in Social Networks and Contraceptive Choice

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Focuses on the role of social learning in contraceptive decision‐making, and it investigates the dynamics of word‐of‐mouth communication and knowledge diffusion under different assumptions about the information conveyed in conversations. In particular, this chapter asks when social learning is consistent with the diversity of contraceptive patterns across communities and social strata that is frequently attributed to this process in empirical studies. The analysis suggests that regional diversity and social stratification arise because of informal or ‘imprecise’ conversations rather than in‐depth discussions about fertility control. The ability to learn from one's friends and neighbours is confounded because there is unobserved heterogeneity with respect to tastes and characteristics. Only if this heterogeneity is not completely revealed in conversations, is social learning consistent with the empirical observation of persistent diversity.

Keywords: contraception; knowledge diffusion; path‐dependency; social learning; social networks

Chapter.  11383 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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