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In this study, data gathered in southern Ethiopia are used to explain how ethnic and religious identities affect current or intended contraceptive use. The only compositional factors that increase the likelihood of birth limitation are having a member of the family with a higher level of education and community access to health services. Compositional factors by themselves do not explain Muslim and ethnic variations in contraceptive use and intentions. Village health and economic crises do not promote birth limitation. One normative economic factor—the practice of sons' inheritance of land from their fathers–considerably reduces the likelihood of contraceptive use, but does not account for religious and ethnic differentials. No evidence is found of a minority-status effect on contraception. Exposure to ethnic and religious diversity in the community of residence substantially increases the likelihood of emergent birth limitation, especially among the predominant Muslim Silte population.