Does Market Integration Buffer Risk, Erode Traditional Sharing Practices and Increase Inequality? A Test among Bolivian Forager-Farmers




Sharing and exchange are common practices for minimizing food insecurity in rural populations. The advent of markets and monetization in egalitarian indigenous populations presents an alternative means of managing risk, with the potential impact of eroding traditional networks. We test whether market involvement buffers several types of risk and reduces traditional sharing behavior among Tsimane Amerindians of the Bolivian Amazon. Results vary based on type of market integration and scale of analysis (household vs. village), consistent with the notion that local culture and ecology shape risk management strategies. Greater wealth and income were unassociated with the reliance on others for food, or on reciprocity, but wealth was associated with a greater proportion of food given to others (i.e., giving intensity) and a greater number of sharing partners (i.e., sharing breadth). Across villages, greater mean income was negatively associated with reciprocity, but economic inequality was positively associated with giving intensity and sharing breadth. Incipient market integration does not necessarily replace traditional buffering strategies but instead can often enhance social capital.

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Refer to Dr. Christopher von Rueden's website for further information.

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Copyright © 2015 Springer US. This article first appeared in Human Ecology 43:4 (2015), 515-530.