How Does Family Planning Promote Development? Evidence from a Social Experiment in Matlab, Bangladesh, 1977-1996
T. Paul Schultz, Yale University
Family planning and allied public health programs focused on women’s reproductive health and child health may have long term consequences for families and economic development. Malthus expected that reducing population growth would increase wages and thereby foster economic development, whereas the Cairo Population Conference of 1994 advanced the idea that women’s health and empowerment enhanced by family planning was itself a development policy objective. Twenty years of data from a social experiment in family planning and maternal and child health in Matlab Bangladesh shows it has raised women’s wages by one-third, but has had no appreciable effect on the wages of youth or male adults, who might have been expected to benefit from the slowing of population growth. Program villages also record greater child survival, women’s health (body mass index), child schooling, and larger household physical assets, which provide parents with support in their old age as an alternative to additional children.