An economic perspective on the influence of social interaction on risky behaviours

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis presents the theme of social interaction and risk taking. There is a growing interest in incorporating the influence of social interaction in the economic modelling of human choices. Although the current economic literature is awash with the topic of social interaction a disproportionate bias is towards theoretical as opposed to empirical work. Of the existing empirical literature, a small proportion deals with sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries as case studies. This is quite surprising given that the cultural characteristic of close-knit social kinship and ties in this region makes it more likely that human choices will be influenced by social interaction. Further to this the existing empirical literature is abounds with criticism regarding the lack of sound methods to curb identification problems which include the effects of unobservables, selection bias, simultaneity and the related reflection problem. Against this backdrop the thesis makes an empirical investigation into the role of social interaction on risk taking behaviour. The thesis consists of three self-contained papers, each with the aim of unearthing the influence of social interaction on risk taking. Two types of risky behaviours apparent in SSA are investigated. The first is risky sexual behaviour associated with the HIV infection. This risk is covered in two papers that constitute chapters 2 and 3. The second type of risky behaviour relates to crimes of social behaviour, specifically contact crimes and contact related crimes, and this is covered in one paper which forms chapter 4.

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