Journal Article

The effect of reframing the goals of family planning programs from limiting fertility to birth spacing: Evidence from Pakistan

Contraceptive prevalence in Pakistan has plateaued near 34 percent for over a decade, suggesting that fertility levels are likely to stay high unless effective interventions are designed. We evaluate the Family Advancement for Life and Health 2007–2012 (FALAH), a family planning project implemented in 31 districts of Pakistan. Deviating from previous programs, FALAH emphasized birth spacing—as opposed to limiting family size—as the primary purpose of contraceptive use. We use Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey to evaluate FALAH's impact on continuous and binary measures of birth intervals. To estimate the causal effects of the project, we compare the outcomes for multiple children born to the same mother before and after the project. We find that FALAH increased interbirth intervals by 2.4 months on average and reduced the proportion of short birth intervals by approximately 7.1 percentage points. This finding suggests that birth spacing as a goal of contraceptive use may resonate better with Pakistani couples than limiting family size. The project's effects were more pronounced for women with high education, in rural areas, and in the middle of the wealth distribution.

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.