Social Connections and Public Healthcare Utilization

43 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2017 Last revised: 27 Feb 2018

See all articles by Sisir Debnath

Sisir Debnath

Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad

Tarun Jain

Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad

Date Written: February 26, 2018


Use of tertiary healthcare by socially proximate peers helps individuals learn about program and treatment procedures, signals that using such care is socially appropriate, and can support use of formal healthcare, all of which could increase program utilization. Using complete administrative data on claims from a publicly financed tertiary care program in India, we estimate that the elasticity of first-time claims with respect to utilization by members of "naturally" occurring caste peers within the village is 0.046, with negligible effects of individuals who are not in the same caste group. Use by social connections is associated with 3.2% lower in-patient care expenditures. We find support for an information channel as peers increase awareness of the program and its features, and have the strongest influence on utilization of complex procedures (oncology, poly-trauma, and cardiology) and while using private hospitals. Connections are most effective among men and in dense urban areas, consistent with information from social groups complementing that from formal sources.

Keywords: Non-Communicable Diseases, Healthcare Utilization, Social Connections, Peer Effects, Caste, India

JEL Classification: H51, I13, I15, I18, O12

Suggested Citation

Debnath, Sisir and Jain, Tarun, Social Connections and Public Healthcare Utilization (February 26, 2018). Indian School of Business Working Paper No. 2899976, Available at SSRN: or

Sisir Debnath

Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad ( email )

Hyderabad, Gachibowli 500 019
8897844177 (Phone)


Tarun Jain (Contact Author)

Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad ( email )

Ahmedabad, 380015

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics