The role of social networks in the economic opportunities of Bolivian women

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Washington, D.C.: Inter-American Development Bank


The authors used empirical analysis to understand the role that networks play in income-generating activities of Bolivian women. Women are an important contributor of household income, and between 20 to 50 percent are the sole income earners of the household. Social networks theories see networks as a way to reduce uncertainty of workers productivity, and to disseminate job information. Theories suggest that social networks also have gender differences, associating women's social networks with lower-quality employment. In Bolivia, women's unemployment rates are higher than men, and 80 percent of women work in the informal sector and in low-quality jobs. Weaker social ties such as neighbours and acquaintances are more conducive to useful job information. Networks can also be classified as endogenous, exogenous, and contextual. Study results show social networks as an important vehicle through which women access jobs that are better-paid jobs than self-employment positions. Both men and women tend to use same sex networks to find jobs. In urban areas women benefit more from information tips of other employed women, but in rural areas women benefit more from male employers as their job informant.



Social impacts, Income generation, Social capital, Women, Gender, Economic impacts, Social networks, Neighbourhood effects, Bolivia, Economic opportunities


Latin American Research Network Working Paper No. R-540