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Materials and Methods: In this exploratory qualitative study in-depth interviews were conducted with 24 participants including 14 fertile women, two parents, three husbands and five midwives and health care providers. The sample was selected purposively in urban health centers, homes and workplaces until data saturation was achieved. Data analysis was carried out adopting conventional content analysis approach through giving analytical codes and identification of using MAXqda software. Study rigor verified via prolonged engagement, validation of codes through member check and peer debriefing. Conclusion: Managing the fertility behaviors need to include the consideration of personal social networks surrounding the couples. It is important to apply the study findings in providing family planning services and dissemination of appropriate fertility behaviors through community-based reproductive health care delivery system.


The Beatles had it right—peer effects have been documented in the context of what we studyhow hard we work in classwhat seeds we plant and fertilizer we usewhich jobs we apply to, and even very personal decisions like whether we smokewhom we marryand whether we have children.


In other words, we know that friends matter for a wide range of outcomes. But we know very little about the social networks of married women in patriarchal societies. And yet, many development interventions are targeted to women without considering how networks might bolster or undermine the effects of such interventions. In a new paper forthcoming in the Journal of Development EconomicsKathy Baylis and I study peer effects in intrahousehold decision-making in rural India. We collected primary data on women's social networks in the state of Uttarakhand to examine how friends influence behavior inside the household.

In contrast, the average American woman has eight friends. Uttarakhand is in the Indian Himalayas and is dotted with small, scattered villages, many lacking access to ro and schools.

Caste hierarchy is strictly maintained in these villages and most social interactions are limited to members of the same caste. Women in particular have few interactions beyond immediate family and often spend more than half the day collecting firewood and water.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 47 percent of married women reported not having the final say on visits to friends and family. In contexts with constrictive social norms, support groups can help women break out of the narrow spheres of family and housework.

Mahila Samakhya is a women's empowerment program centered around weekly meetings of women's support groups. Our hypothesis is that a non-participant whose household outcomes resemble those of her Mahila Samakhya participant friends is indicative of the presence of peer effects in intrahousehold bargaining.

How mothers-in-law influence women’s social networks and reproductive health

In essence, we compare a woman in a program village in which there are many other women of the same caste who are old enough to participate in Mahila Samakhya with another woman in a program village that has few other age-eligible women of her caste, to that same difference in women in non-program villages.

We examine several woman-level outcomes— ability to leave the house without permission, access to social safety nets, employment outside the household, and social norms on perceived gender roles; and two outcomes for children— food consumption and time use. Our show ificant peer effects on only one woman-level outcome: working off the family farm.

We find that women with more empowered friends invest more equally in their daughters and sons. This is consistent with the literature showing that more empowered women invest more equally in their sons and daughters than do less empowered women.

These findings suggest the presence of peer effects in decision-making within the household, particularly with respect to investments in children. Our findings have several implications for policy.

First, we estimate a large decay rate, of over 90 percent, between effects on own empowerment and peer effects. When targeting an intervention, it is important to ask whether the intervention is likely to generate second-order spillover effects with substantial decay rates. Interventions targeting child welfare through women's empowerment may generate spillovers but those on gender roles and women's autonomy may be limited by the stickiness of social norms.

Published on Let's Talk Development. Getting by with a little help from my friends: the social lives of married women in rural India.

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Getting by with a little help from my friends: the social lives of married women in rural india

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