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Behavioral Economics in Reproductive Health Initiative

Overview

The Behavioral Economics in Reproductive health Initiative (BERI) is a research program that seeks to identify novel social and economic interventions that help individuals, households, and communities in Sub-Saharan Africa achieve their ideal reproductive outcomes. The initiative is founded on the recognition that despite availability of reproductive health and family planning services in most developing countries, low-income and marginalized individuals often are unable to achieve their desired reproductive outcomes. Challenges can include procrastination, misaligned incentives for health care providers, and problems with intra-household bargaining.

In response to this challenge, BERI will design novel interventions based on insights from behavioral and labor economics--including concepts like risk preferences, social learning, time inconsistency, and the role of social networks in job search.

BERI actively seeks collaboration with reproductive health implementing organizations, to solicit guidance on our research agenda, develop research partnerships, and stimulate demand for new evidence. To learn more about BERI or to get involved, please contact us.

Pilot Research Projects 

Do cash transfers to young girls affect empowerment and aspirations in adolescence?  In a earlier study, randomly selected school-aged girls received unconditional cash transfers  (UCT) or transfers conditional on school attendance (CCT).  Short term results included improved school attendance and performance (CCT), delayed marriage and pregnancy, decreased sexual partnerships with older men (UCT), and decreased the prevalence of HIV and herpes (both). Now, researchers will follow up with the study population as they become adolescent women.  Integrating results from in-depth qualitative interviews and focus groups with the rigorous quantitative data, the study will investigate if the cash transfers led to changes in self-esteem and aspirations, empowering the women to make different decisions about their future.                                                                                                                                               

MALAWI | Craig McIntosh, UCSD & Sarah Baird, GWU

Does increasing awareness through community-based interventions stimulate demand for long-acting reversible contraceptives? This pilot will explore channels for educating women—and correcting misconceptions—about LARC (contraceptive implants and IUDs) outside of traditional clinical services. Specifically, hairdressers in treatment areas will be trained to discuss LARC with their clients and refer those interested to local clinics.  Outcomes—LARC uptake and new clients visiting the clinics for family planning—will be compared between clinics in treatment and non-treatment areas to determine if the intervention increased demand.

ZIMBABWE | Nancy Padian, UC Berkeley

Does maternal mortality risk awareness affect men’s fertility demand?  This randomized controlled trial tests whether a maternal mortality curriculum designed to break down cultural myths about pregnancy can increase contraceptive uptake.  Couples will attend community workshops, where they learn about contraceptives and receive vouchers  for family planning. Those in the treatment group receive the additional curriculum on maternal mortality. Measured outcomes include knowledge, superstitious beliefs, intra-household dynamics, contraceptive use, and health outcomes.

ZAMBIA | Nava Ashraf, Harvard

Can life skills training improve self-control and self-efficacy among young women? Building on an existing training experiment for high school students, this project tests whether linking family planning to career success  can improve job market and fertility outcomes for young women. Recent high school graduates are randomized to evaluate the effects of “hard-skills” and “soft-skills” focused entrepreneurship training courses; half of the students in each group will also receive a reproductive health module. The targeted  “soft skills”—including decision making, assertiveness, and communication—are hypothesized to improve women’s control over fertility.                                                                                                                                                                      

UGANDA | Paul Gertler &  Dana Carney, UC Berkeley