Three Essays on the Effects of Donor Supplied Contraceptives on Fertility, Usage, and Attitudes

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Frankenberg, Elizabeth

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After the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, there have been major strides in advancing the family planning agenda for low and middle-income countries worldwide. Much of the existing infrastructure and funding for family planning access is in the form of supplying free contraceptives to countries. While the average yearly value of donations since 2000 was over 170 million dollars for contraceptives procured for developing countries, an ongoing debate in the empirical literature is whether increases in contraceptive access and supply drive declines in fertility (UNFPA 2014).

This dissertation explores the fertility and behavioral effects of an increase in contraceptive supply donated to Zambia. Zambia, a high-fertility developing country, receives over 80 percent of its contraceptives from multilateral donors and aid agencies. Most contraceptives are donated and provided to women for free at government clinics (DELIVER 2015). I chose Zambia as a case study to measure the relationship between contraceptive supply and fertility because of two donor-driven events that led to an increase in both the quantity and frequency of contraceptives starting in 2008 (UNFPA 2014). Donations increased because donors and the Zambian government started a systematic method of forecasting contraceptive need on December 2007, and the Mexico City Policy was lifted in January 2009.

In Chapter 1, I investigate whether a large change in quantity and frequency of donated contraceptives affected fertility, using available data on contraceptive donations to Zambia, and birth records from the 2007 and 2013 Demographic and Health Surveys. I use a difference-in-difference framework to estimate the fertility effects of a supply chain improvement program that started in 2011, and was designed to ensure more regularity of contraceptive supply. The increase in total contraceptive supply after the Mexico City Policy was rescinded is associated with a 12 percent reduction in fertility relative to the before period, after controlling for demographic characteristics and time controls. There is evidence that a supply chain improvement program led to significant fertility declines for regions that received the program after the Mexico City Policy was rescinded.

In Chapter 2, I explore the effects of the large increase in donated contraceptives on modern contraceptive uptake. According to the 2007 and 2013 Demographic and Health Surveys, there was a dramatic increase in current use of injectables, implants, and IUDs. Simultaneously, declines occurred in usage of condoms, lactational amenorrhea method (LAM), and traditional methods. In this chapter, I estimate the effect of the increase in donations on uptake, composition of contraceptive usage, and usage of methods based on distance to contraceptive access points. The results show the post-2007 period is associated with an increase in usage of injectables and the pill among women living further away from access points.

In Chapter 3, I explore attitudes towards the contraceptive supply system, and identify areas for improvement, based on qualitative interviews with 14 experts and 61 Zambian users and non-users of contraceptives. The interviews uncover systemic barriers that prevent women from consistently accessing methods, and individual barriers that exacerbate the deficiencies in supply chain procedures. I find that 39 out of 61 women interviewed, both users and non-users, had personal experiences with stock out. The qualitative results suggest that the increase in contraceptives brought to the country after 2007 may have not contributed to as large of a decline in fertility because of bottlenecks in the supply chain, and problems in maintaining stock levels at clinics. I end the chapter with a series of four recommendations for improvements in the supply chain going forward, in light of recent commitments by the Zambian government during the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning.






Shen, Jennifer (2016). Three Essays on the Effects of Donor Supplied Contraceptives on Fertility, Usage, and Attitudes. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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