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Contraception as Development? New Evidence from Family Planning in Colombia*


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    I am grateful to David Cutler as well as David Bloom, Ken Chay and Richard Frank for their advice and support. Jay Bhattacharya, Hoyt Bleakley, David Canning, Erica Field, Amy Finkelstein, Paul Gertler, Ron Lee, David Levine, Mushfiq Mobarak, Sendhil Mullainathan, Joe Newhouse, Ben Olken, Steve Pischke, Kiki Pop-Eleches, Piedad Urdinola, Alan Zaslavsky, three anonymous referees and numerous seminar participants made helpful suggestions at various stages of this research. Gonzalo Echeverry, Angela Gomez, and especially Gabriel Ojeda at Profamilia were generous with their time and knowledge throughout this project. The views expressed here are not necessarily the views of Profamilia or its staff. Research support from the National Institute on Aging (grant number T32 AG00186) through the National Bureau of Economic Research is gratefully acknowledged. All errors are my own.


There has been considerable debate in the last decade about whether or not family planning programmes in developing countries reduce fertility or improve socio-economic outcomes. This article provides new evidence by studying the expansion of one of the world's oldest and largest family planning organisations – Profamilia of Colombia. It finds that family planning explains less than 10% of Colombia's fertility decline during its demographic transition. As in wealthy countries, however, lowering the costs of first birth postponement produced important socio-economic gains, enabling young women to obtain more education and to work more and live independently later in life.