Journal Article

Learning in social networks and contraceptive choice

Kohler, H.-P.
Demography, 34:3, 369–383 (1997)


A puzzling observation in the diffusion of modern fertility control is the persistent diversity in contraceptive practices across communities or social strata. This paper proposes a model of `learning in social networks' to explain this diversity with the random dynamics of word-of-mouth communication. Women are uncertain about the merits of modern contraception, and estimate the differential quality of available methods based on `imprecise' information from network partners. Their contraceptive choices are determined by this estimate and private knowledge about personal characteristics. This process of social learning leads to path-dependent adoption of fertility control within, and diversity in contraceptive practices across villages or social strata. (JSTOR)
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