On the measure of income and the economic unimportance of social capital: Evidence from a native amazonian society of farmers and foragers

Ricardo Godoy*, Victoria Reyes-Garcia, Tomás Huanca, William R. Leonard, Thomas McDade, Susan Tanner, Craig Seyfried

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

Economists equate economic self-sufficiency (autarky) with low income and stress the economic role of social capital as a form of self-insurance in poor rural areas of developing nations. In contrast, anthropologists speak of the "original affluence" of foragers and see social capital as serving economic and social roles. Economists do not work with highly autarkic peoples such as part- or full-time foragers, and cultural anthropologists have not provided formal, comprehensive estimates of income or of the monetary value of social capital in highly autarkic societies. Drawing on data from 611 adults of 244 households in 13 villages of a highly autarkic society of swidden farmers, hunters, and gatherers in the Bolivian Amazon, the Tsimane', we present measures of personal income and of the monetary value of social capital. Daily personal income reaches US $2.35-3.52, which is above the international poverty line of US $1-2, on a par with the income in the rest of Bolivia, and three times higher than the income in the rest of rural Bolivia. The Tsimane' do not have low income, at least not when compared with their rural neighbors. Social capital in the form of gifts and labor services received from the rest of the village accounted for a small share of daily personal income (<5%) and did not get activated to any great degree when people suffered a mishap. In sum, the study uncovers a more nuanced picture of well-being in a relatively autarkic society. People in such a society enjoy relative affluence, invest in social capital for social more than for economic reasons, but cope with adversity largely on their own.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-260
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Anthropological Research
Volume63
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2007

Keywords

  • Amazon
  • Autarky
  • Bolivia
  • Foragers
  • Horticulturalist
  • Income
  • Insurance
  • Tsimane'

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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