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Subjective expectations and demand for contraception

IFS Working Paper W21/23

One-quarter of married, fertile-age women in Sub-Saharan Africa report not wanting a pregnancy and yet do not use contraceptives. To study this issue, we collect detailed data on women’s subjective probabilistic beliefs and estimate a structural model of contraceptive choices. Our results indicate that costly interventions like eliminating supply constraints would only modestly increase contraceptive use. Alternatively, increasing partners’ approval of methods, aligning partners’ fertility preferences with women’s, and correcting women’s beliefs about pregnancy risk absent contraception have the potential to increase use considerably. Results from a within-subject experiment testing this last finding are highly consistent with the structural estimates.

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