Working Paper | 2014

The Psycho-Social Benefits of Access to Contraception: Experimental Evidence from Zambia

by Nava Ashraf, Marric Buessing, Erica Field and Jessica Leight

Abstract

In a field experiment in Lusaka, Zambia, married couples in the catchment area of a family planning clinic were randomly assigned to either a treatment group (N=503) or a control group (N=768). Those in the treatment group received vouchers guaranteeing free and immediate access to two long-term modern contraceptive methods with low failure rates (injectable contraceptives and contraceptive implants), which they could redeem at the family planning clinic over the course of a year. Women in the control group had access to the standard menu of contraceptive methods available in the clinic, and were subject to lengthy waiting times and frequent stock-outs. Follow-up data on contraceptive utilization and mental health outcomes were collected two years after the intervention. Women in the treatment group were significantly more likely to utilize modern contraceptive methods at endline, (95% CI [-0.001, 0.079]; p=0.059). They also exhibit significantly improved mental health relative to the control sample, scoring 0.070 points higher on the mental health index (95% CI [0.006, 0.133]; p=0.031). These effects were observed in the absence of any significant effect on fertility or birth spacing.

Keywords: contraceptive access; mental health; Zambia;

Citation:

Ashraf, Nava, Marric Buessing, Erica Field, and Jessica Leight. "The Psycho-Social Benefits of Access to Contraception: Experimental Evidence from Zambia." Working Paper, August 2014. (Under review.)