Income transfer programs can boost contraceptive use and encourage family planning, Baker Institute expert says

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Jeff Falk
713-348-6775
jfalk@rice.edu

Income transfer programs can boost contraceptive use and encourage family planning, Baker Institute expert says

HOUSTON – (July 31, 2019) – A new study indicates that providing more money to low-income women encourages them to use contraceptives and engage in family planning.

A young native girl on the streets of Cusco, Peru. Credit: 123RF.com/Rice University

By empowering women with low incomes, governments can not only encourage more family planning but also improve the health of mothers and their children, according to Farhan Majid, an economist and global health expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Majid, the L.E. and Virginia Simmons Fellow in Health and Technology Policy at the Baker Institute, outlines his insights in a new post for the redesigned Baker Institute blog that was unveiled this summer, and he is available to discuss them with the news media.

Unwanted pregnancies are known to contribute to health problems for mothers and children. They also perpetuate a vicious intergenerational cycle of poverty in both developed and developing countries.

Income plays a central role in fertility behaviors, Majid said. To study how income effects women’s reproductive choices, Majid and researchers at McGill University focused on a program in Peru called Juntos.

Juntos is what’s known as a conditional cash transfer program. It gives money to low-income women whose child-rearing practices meet certain minimum requirements, like providing their children with adequate schooling and health care. Majid and his fellow researchers saw Junos as a unique opportunity to investigate the relationship between a woman’s income and her child-bearing behavior.

“The research findings show that Juntos influenced the beneficiaries’ reproductive choices in several interesting ways,” Majid wrote. “First, Juntos led to an increase in birth control use, but only after the program had been in place for a few years. A placebo analysis further shows that no such effect is found on wealthier households not exposed to the program.”

Second, Juntos increased the use of modern birth control methods relative to traditional methods, such as rhythm or abstinence, Majid said. “Women participating in Juntos were more likely to switch from traditional to modern methods of birth control, such as condoms, oral contraceptives, implants, injections or sterilization,” he wrote. “Our analysis reveals that these effects persist years after the initial rollout of Juntos.”

They found nothing else that could explain those trends, suggesting what happened was no coincidence and Juntos was responsible for changing women’s birth control habits.

Policymakers seeking to empower low-income women through cash transfer programs should be aware of a couple of key considerations, Majid said.

“First, cash transfers alone cannot fully empower women to assert their fertility preferences,” he wrote. “The study shows that conditional cash transfers enable women to clandestinely take control of their fertility when they are part of a couple that disagrees on the size of their family.”

Second, cash transfers can make family planning more accessible, Majid said. “The research speaks to the complex ways in which economic development may affect the demand for family planning and, hence, fertility.”

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For more information or to schedule an interview with Majid, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at jfalk@rice.edu or 713-348-6775. The Baker Institute has a radio and television studio available for media.

Related materials:

Blog post: http://blog.bakerinstitute.org/2019/07/30/how-income-transfer-programs-can-boost-contraceptive-use-and-fertility

Majid bio: www.bakerinstitute.org/experts/farhan-majid

Majid on Twitter: @M_FarhanMajid

Follow the Baker Institute via Twitter @BakerInstitute.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks among the top three university-affiliated think tanks in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute’s blog, http://blog.bakerinstitute.org.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.