Mothers’ Social Networks and Socioeconomic Gradients of Isolation
42 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2020 Last revised: 21 Feb 2021
Date Written: November 2020
Social connections are fundamental to human wellbeing. This paper examines the social networks of young married women in rural Odisha, India. This is a group for whom highly-gendered norms around marriage, mobility and work are likely to shape opportunities to form and maintain meaningful ties with other women. We track the social networks of 2,170 mothers over four years, and find a high degree of isolation. Wealthier women and women from more-advantaged castes and tribes have smaller social networks than their less-advantaged peers. These gradients are primarily driven by the fact that more-advantaged women are less likely to know other women within the same socioeconomic group than are less-advantaged women. There exists strong homophily by socioeconomic status (SES) that is symmetric across socioeconomic groups. Mediation analysis shows that SES differences in social isolation are strongly associated with ownership of toilets and labor force participation. Further research should investigate the formation and role of female networks.
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