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Fertility and Social InteractionAn Economic Perspective$
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Hans-Peter Kohler

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199244591

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199244596.001.0001

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Learning in Social Networks and Contraceptive Choice

Learning in Social Networks and Contraceptive Choice

(p.29) 2 Learning in Social Networks and Contraceptive Choice
Fertility and Social Interaction

Hans‐Peter Kohler (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

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

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