By Paula Chappel
In my thesis, I investigate the impact of women’s education on their contraceptive knowledge and intent to use contraceptives. I exploit a Kenyan education policy change in January 2003 that made education free and compulsory. This is an important topic because better educated women are often healthier, and are more likely to be in the formal labor market and earn higher incomes. They are also likely to marry at a later age and, if they choose to become mothers, have fewer, healthier, and more educated children. These outcomes suggest that women’s school education, especially because due to potential effects on fertility, has the power to lift households and communities out of poverty. (World Bank, 2002)
Thus if indeed this primary school education policy is effective, and it increases the number of women attaining primary education then measuring the effect of this increase on women’s contraceptive knowledge helps to explain if some of the effects mentioned above are possible. Much of this work has been done in developed countries and less in developing countries.
For my main analysis, I use Kenyan Demographic Health Surveys (KDHS) data from 2,931 respondents for the birth cohorts of 1994 and 1996. When the 2003 FPE policy was enacted, the 1996 birth cohort was seven years old and the 1994 birth cohort was nine years old. Since the 1996 birth cohort was exposed to the policy at a younger age, I interpret the 1996 birth cohort to have had more exposure to the policy than the 1994 birth cohort. For additional analysis, I use the Performance and Monitoring Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) data and KDHS data for more birth cohorts.
Methodology & Key Results
I assign treatment based on exogenous variation between birth cohorts. My findings show that the reform increased women’s educational attainment and literacy rates and led to an increase in knowledge of contraceptives. After including fixed effects for various demographics, I find that women born in 1996 are 4.72 percentage points more likely to obtain some education compared with those born in 1994. They are also 1.22 percentage points less likely to report they have no knowledge of contraceptives. When I assign varying intensities of exposure to the policy according to birth cohorts, I find women exposed to the policy are 8.79 percentage points more likely to get some education than those who are not exposed to the policy. For both analyzes, poor women are more likely to have their education and contraceptive knowledge increase as a result of the policy compared with women from other income brackets. The results of this paper are consistent with the notion that better-educated women have a greater understanding of contraceptives.
Please come chat with me at the Econ Senior Thesis Zoom sessions—Monday, May 25, 1-2pm ET—to learn more or ask any questions about my research or the senior thesis process: https://harvard.zoom.us/j/96528882732.