Academic journal article Demographic Research

A Description of Within-Family Resource Exchange Networks in a Malawian Village

Academic journal article Demographic Research

A Description of Within-Family Resource Exchange Networks in a Malawian Village

Article excerpt


In this paper we explore patterns of economic transfers between adults within household and family networks in a village in Malawi's Rumphi district, using data from the 2006 round of the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health. We fit Exponential-family Random Graph Models (ERGMs) to assess individual, relational, and higher-order network effects. The network effects of cyclic giving, reciprocity, and in-degree and out-degree distribution suggest a network with a tendency away from the formation of hierarchies or "hubs." Effects of age, sex, working status, education, health status, and kinship relation are also considered.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. Introduction

Using Exponential-family Random Graph Models (ERGMs) and data from the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health (formerly the Malawi Diffusion and Ideational Change Project), we describe the patterns of wealth flows within household and family networks in a Malawian village. We graphically represent the observed economic resource transfers within household and family networks, and we use ERGMs to estimate the effects of individual attributes, relationship attributes, and network structures on giving patterns. We consider effects of age, sex, working status, health status, education level, and kinship relation. We also consider mutuality effects, the effect of cyclical giving patterns, and the degree distribution of the network. An important feature of the analysis is the estimation of these effects from partially observed household networks. Based on the sampling strategy in the survey design, the complete household networks were not observed. Our ERGM statistically corrects for the sampling, and estimates the parameters of the complete networks. We apply a novel framework to describe patterns of resource exchange in a single Malawian village. Ultimately, we hope that our analysis will provide a basis for the formulation of hypotheses regarding the social processes underlying these patterns, and will encourage investigation into the question of whether similar patterns might be found in other Rumphi villages.

2. Background

The UN estimates the adult HIV prevalence rate in Malawi to be 11.9%, with an estimated 930,000 adults and children living with HIV in Malawi in 2007 (UNAIDS 2008). The impact of the AIDS epidemic in Malawi is compounded by the extreme poverty of the country. Approximately two-thirds of the population lives below the nation's poverty line, and Malawi was ranked 165 out of 177 countries in the 2005 United Nations Human Development Report (United Nations Development Programme 2005). The population is predominantly rural (85%), relying on subsistence agriculture and a strong sense of family, community, and interdependence. Where health insurance, life insurance, and other structural supports are unavailable, there is a deep reliance on community, kin, and social obligations. A full description of the impact of the AIDS epidemic on individuals, families, and communities in rural Malawi must include a description of the economic support structure in which people are embedded.

Understanding the social and economic networks in which AIDS unfolds helps us understand the social response to AIDS in a context of extreme poverty. A number of papers have examined social and economic networks in the context of the AIDS epidemic in Malawi. Mtika (2003) showed that prime-age adults (aged 20-40) are key players in the family's economic support network, and that their transfer behavior depends on their health status. As prime-age adults are at the heart of the transfer support system, but are also the age group most likely to contract HIV/AIDS, Mtika warned that the AIDS epidemic will have economic and social repercussions throughout the family network. Weinreb (2007) found that economic transfers between family members are influenced by the overall network structure: the presence or absence of certain relations (e. …

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