This paper explores two hypotheses concerning the role of status in relationships between rich and poor in traditional communities by analyzing who goes to whose funerals in six Zimbabwean villages. Funerals allow status to be observed because non-attendance is a sign of disrespect. We find that the richer a household hosting a funeral, the less likely heads of neighbouring households are to attend. Thus, the status-for-insurance hypothesis - that the poor bestow status upon the rich in return for help in times of need - is rejected in favour of the egalitarianism hypothesis - that richer households are denied status.
CSAE WPS/2008-26, 22 pp.