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How beliefs about HIV status affect risky behaviors: evidence from Malawi

Authors: Áureo de Paula , Gil Shapira and Petra Todd
Date: 29 August 2013
Type: Journal Article, Journal of Applied Econometrics, Vol. 29, No. 6, pp. 944-964
DOI: 10.1002/jae.2342

Abstract

This paper examines how beliefs about own HIV status affect decisions to engage in risky sexual behavior, as measured by having extramarital sex and/or multiple sex partners. The empirical analysis is based on a panel survey of males from the 2006 and 2008 rounds of the Malawi Diffusion and Ideational Change Project (MDICP). The paper develops a behavioral model of the belief-risky behavior relationship and estimates the causal effect of beliefs on risky behavior using the Arellano and Carrasco (2003) semiparametric panel data estimator, which accommodates both unobserved heterogeneity and belief endogeneity arising from a possible dependence of current beliefs on past risky behavior. Results show that downward revisions in the belief assigned to being HIV positive increase risky behavior and upward revisions decrease it. For example, based on a linear specification, a decrease in the perceived probability of being HIV positive from 10 to 0 percentage points increases the probability of engaging in risky behavior (extramarital affairs) from 8.3 to 14.1 percentage points. We also develop and implement a modified version of the Arellano and Carrasco (2003) estimator to allow for misreporting of risky behavior and find estimates to be robust to a range of plausible misreporting levels.

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