Family planning has benefits: Study

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KUALA LUMPUR — Educating girls about family planning and contraception may indirectly keep female students in schools longer, said a recent meta study.

The working paper from Stanford University’s Centre of Global Poverty and Development, which used a study conducted in Malaysia to measure the effect of family planning that started in the 1960s, also found indication that these may promote better economic well-being later in life.

“These programmes were introduced in some areas a few years earlier than in others. So researchers could compare what happened to girls in areas where contraceptives became available when they were young with girls from the same cohorts in areas with no contraceptives,” The Economist reported.

According to the study, girls in areas where contraceptives were introduced first stayed in school an average of six months longer, which rose to about a year longer if they were born after the programmes began.

The researchers said the boost in school attendance appeared to have linked to the availability of contraception, suggesting parents may see unintended benefits of sexual education.

Girls exposed to family planning were also more likely to secure better paying jobs upon entering adulthood.

They are also more likely to take their elderly parents in, but not their in-laws and have a say in family decisions.

“Women are substantially more likely to be paid for their work in their prime working ages (between 26 and 40). Moreover, these women also appear to have gained bargaining power within their households, increasing their households’ support — particularly through co-residence — for women’s elderly parents‚” it said.

The working paper titled Family Planning and Women’s Economic Empowerment: Incentive Effects and Direct Effects among Malaysian Women studied the possible effects of family planning programmes for human capital investments in girls, which could then translate into improvements in women’s economic status throughout
their lives.

It said family planning programmes have the potential to change parents’ expectations about their daughter’s future.

“Focusing on the case of Malaysia, an early lower-income country to introduce family planning, our preliminary results suggest family planning may have created such incentives for investments in girls, raising female educational attainment by approximately one-third of a standard deviation (0.5 years on average) by discouraging elementary school dropout among girls.

The study suggests the benefits of contraceptives in poor countries may be larger than initially thought.

“Finally, we find the incentive effects of family planning may outweigh its direct effects,” it said.