Get access

Schools, Their Spatial Distribution and Characteristics, and Fertility Limitation


  • This research is supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01HD032912 and T32 HD07168), the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan, and the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I thank William Axinn, N. E. Barr, Jennifer Barber, Susan Murphy, Lisa Pearce, Ron Rindfuss, and Arland Thornton for comments on earlier versions and the staff of the Institute for Social and Environmental Research, Chitwan, Nepal, for their assistance in data collection. Any errors are my responsibility. Direct correspondence to Sarah R. Brauner-Otto, Department of Sociology, Mississippi State University, P.O. Box C, Mississippi State, MS 39762; e-mail:; phone: 662–325–0929; fax: 662–325–4564.


This article investigates the complex relationship between various dimensions of women's educational context and their contraceptive use later in life. Using data from rural Nepal on all the schools that ever existed in one community, I create geographically weighted measures of school characteristics—specifically teacher and student characteristics—that capture exposure to the complete array of schools and investigate the direct relationship between these dimensions of school characteristics and contraceptive use. These analyses provide new information on the broader issue of how social context influences the adoption of innovative behaviors by exploring the wide-reaching effects of school characteristics on individuals. Findings show that the gender of teachers, the gender of other students, and the level of teacher education are all related to women's use of contraception; that increased exposure to these school characteristics throughout the study area, but not necessarily at the closest school, is related to higher rates of contraceptive use; and that school characteristics early in the life course can have long-term consequences for individual behavior.