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Culturally meaningful social hierarchy in a small-scale society of forager-farmers: Age, gender and lifestyle during economic transition

Resource Type
Dataset : observational data, survey data
  • Schultz, Alan (Baylor University)
  • Gravlee, Clarence (University of Florida)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • National Science Foundation
    • Award Number: 1154738
Free Keywords
cultural consensus analysis; lifestyle; culture change; market integration; rapid economic change; small-scale societies; cultural competence; Tsimane'; Bolivia; South America; Tsimane; Chimane; residual agreement; economic transition; social incongruence
  • Abstract

    Rapid economic transitions from self-sufficient economies to market integrated cash-based systems, have been associated with the exacerbation of existing, and the emergence of new, social incongruities. Social incongruence occurs when an individual’s positions in multiple social hierarchies conflict with one another, resulting in poor health. A central focus of research on economic change and social incongruence has been lifestyle (i.e. the items and behaviors that together symbolize living a good life). It remains unclear, however, how the underlying mechanisms that drive incongruence with lifestyle are influenced by economic transitions. Using cognitive anthropological theory and methods combined with careful selection of the study setting, I show that it is possible to simultaneously investigate variation in the meaning of lifestyle and other social hierarchies across levels of economic transition. To aid in this effort, I sampled purposively from key demographic subgroups across two communities of relatively egalitarian Tsimane’ forager-horticulturalists living at different levels of economic transition in Bolivian Amazonia (communities located either two hours or two days travel time from the nearest market town, respectively). In total, I collected mixed qualitative and quantitative data from 101 adults aged 15–75 years during 2012–2013. I analyzed lifestyle via a multi-step consensus analysis process that includes 1) development of lifestyle ratings questions elicited from respondents, 2) calculation of an “ideal” lifestyle ratings key, 3) creation of respondent competence scores based on how well an individual’s ratings match ideal ratings, and 4) a factor analysis of competence scores to estimate goodness-of-fit for the lifestyle model. Results support the presence of consensus around lifestyle with a 4:1 ratio of eigenvalues. Highly rated items from the 38-item model include both long-valued local practices (e.g. weaving bags and taking care of children) and newly-adopted elements (e.g. education and raising livestock). I also found evidence of subgroup variation in both the first and second factor loadings of competence, possibly indicating social incongruence. In the first factor, there was a gendered distribution of lifestyle knowledge with women from both communities significantly more knowledgeable about this cultural domain (>13% higher competence; p<.01). To explore the meaning behind this stratification, I compare men and women based on the difference between their item ratings and the ideal model ratings. Men’s ratings deviate most for five items related to market integration and social interaction including having non-Tsimane’ friends, getting help outside the family and owning a gas stove. By contrast, among women just one large deviation was found, with a lower-than-ideal rating given to non-Tsimane’ friends. In the second factor loadings, I also find variation between respondents stratified by more- and less market integrated communities (p>.01), and, older and younger age groups (p>.05). I identify three themes that differentiate these deviations in the second factor, namely, 1) spiritual aid and health, 2) social life and autarky, and 3) market integration. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of these results in relation to literature on social incongruity and economic change.
  • Weighting

    To obtain the cultural ratings key in the cultural consensus analysis, the informal model was used, which requires that the ratings responses are weighted according to individual competence values using a linear model. The estimated answers are based on the first set of factor scores from a factor analysis of the ratings correlation matrix. Weights were calculated using the UCINET 6 software package.
  • Technical Information

    Response Rates: Of the 34 eligible community members approached to participate in free-listing interviews, 32 of 34 completed interviews, or 94.1%. Of the 75 eligible community members approached to participate in ratings surveys, 69 completed the survey, or 92%.
  • Technical Information

    Presence of Common Scales: Exhaustive free-listing with prompts and a Likert-type scale for ratings surveys.
Temporal Coverage
  • 2010-09-17 / 2013-04-10
    Time Period: Fri Sep 17 00:00:00 EDT 2010--Wed Apr 10 00:00:00 EDT 2013 (September 2012 to April 2013)
  • 2013-03-06 / 2013-04-10
    Collection Date(s): Wed Mar 06 00:00:00 EST 2013--Wed Apr 10 00:00:00 EDT 2013 (Cultural consensus ratings surveys)
  • 2012-09-17 / 2013-04-06
    Collection Date(s): Mon Sep 17 00:00:00 EDT 2012--Sat Apr 06 00:00:00 EDT 2013 (Free-list interviews)
Geographic Coverage
  • Tsimane' Moseten Native Community Land (TCO), Beni Department, Bolivia
Sampled Universe
Adult Tsimane' forager-horticulturalists aged 15-75 years from two communities (one a two-hour roundtrip to the nearest market town and another, a two-day roundtrip to the nearest market town) along the Maniqui River in Tsimane' Moseten Native Community Land (TCO), Beni Department, Bolivia, South America.Smallest Geographic Unit: community or household
Life-stage purposive quota sampling based on three age-groups (15-34; 35-49; >50), two genders, and local third-party evaluated wealth (three third-party evaluators confirmed each respondent wealth classification; options were dichotomous: higher wealth than most or lower wealth than most) in two communities.
Collection Mode
  • face-to-face interview~~mixed mode~~on-site questionnaire~~paper and pencil interview (PAPI)~~

    All data was collected by A. Schultz, in the Tsimane' language, with the assistance of experienced Tsimane' translators (Ignacio Huasna Tayo; Orlando Durvano Tayo).


Update Metadata: 2019-07-02 | Issue Number: 2 | Registration Date: 2018-10-24

Schultz, Alan; Gravlee, Clarence (2018): Culturally meaningful social hierarchy in a small-scale society of forager-farmers: Age, gender and lifestyle during economic transition. Version: 1. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.