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The microfinance of reproduction and the reproduction of microfinance: understanding the connections between microfinance, empowerment, contraception and fertility in Bangladesh in the 1990s.

Duvendack, Maren and Palmer-Jones, Richard (2011): The microfinance of reproduction and the reproduction of microfinance: understanding the connections between microfinance, empowerment, contraception and fertility in Bangladesh in the 1990s.

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Abstract

Microfinance (MF) and family planning (FP) are thought to be very important interventions in the promotion of human development and it has been suggested that MF has significant beneficent impacts on contraceptive adoption and fertility. Thus, several authors, e.g. Amin, Hill and Li (1995), Amin et al (1994 and 2001); Schuler, Hashemi and Riley (1997); Hashemi, Schuler and Riley (1996); Schuler and Hashemi (1994), using naive methods find that MF in Bangladesh increases contraceptive use and reduces fertility at the individual level, largely because MF empowers women. Pitt et al (1999 – henceforth PKML), however, using instrumental variables (IV) estimation find that MF is associated with decreases in contraceptive use especially when females borrow, and male borrowing decreases fertility, perhaps because fertility increasing income effects of MF outweigh substitution. Steele et al (2001), also using data from Bangladesh from around the same time as the PKML study, come to conclusions closer to the orthodoxy, arguing that PKML use an inappropriate metric for MF programme participation. In this paper we apply matching methods to our reconstruction of the PKML data to test whether other methods reproduce their results. We find that female borrowing substantially increases contraceptive use but has mainly no effects on fertility, while male borrowing has no effect on contraceptive use or on fertility; this contradicts some of the findings of PKML. Our results are shown to be vulnerable to unobservables, but there is no reason to believe that results on IV based methods are more reliable.

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