An Empirical Analysis of Health Shocks and Informal Risk Sharing Networks

Image credit: Rod Waddington


Using panel household survey data from rural Ethiopia, we investigate informal risk sharing against health shocks in the presence of multiple risk sharing networks. We find that neither short-term nor long-term health shocks are insured through transfers from networks such as friends, neighbors, and members of informal associations. However, networks related along bloodline such as extended family members provide assistance when health shocks are long-term such as disabilities. The results show that these networks strategically complement planned component of their transfers which are made on a regular basis such as remittance, entitlement, or chop money (small cash sums for household expenses). Moreover, we find significant history dependence in transfers from not only genetically distant networks but also extended family members as well as formal institutions, which seems to discourage dependency. Finally, the findings suggest significant heterogeneity in transfers.

African Development Review, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2018, 100-111