Income Shocks, Contraceptive Use, and Timing of Fertility

38 Pages Posted: 4 May 2016

See all articles by Shamma Alam

Shamma Alam

Dickinson College

Claus C. Pörtner

Seattle University - Albers School of Business and Economics; Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Date Written: May 2, 2016


This paper examines the relationship between household income shocks and fertility decisions. Using panel data from Tanzania, we estimate the impact of agricultural shocks on pregnancy, births, and contraception use. We estimate individual level fixed effect models to account for potential correlation between unobservable household characteristics and both shocks and decisions on fertility and contraceptive use. The likelihood of pregnancies and childbirth are significantly lower for households that experience a crop shock. Furthermore, women significantly increase their contraception use in response to crop losses. We find little evidence that the response to crop loss depends on education or wealth levels. The increase in contraceptive use comes almost entirely from traditional contraceptive methods, such as abstinence, withdrawal, and the rhythm method. We argue that these changes in behavior are the result of deliberate decisions of the households rather than the shocks’ effects on other factors that influence fertility, such as women’s health status, the absence or migration of a spouse, the dissolution of partnerships, or the number of hours worked. We also show that, although traditional contraceptives have low overall efficacy, households with a strong incentive to postpone fertility are very effective at using them.

Keywords: Tanzania, family planning, shocks, timing of fertility

JEL Classification: J1, 01, J2

Suggested Citation

Alam, Shamma and Pörtner, Claus C., Income Shocks, Contraceptive Use, and Timing of Fertility (May 2, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Shamma Alam

Dickinson College ( email )

PO Box 1773
Carlisle, PA 17013
United States

Claus C. Pörtner (Contact Author)

Seattle University - Albers School of Business and Economics ( email )

901 12th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
United States
206-296-2539 (Phone)


Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology ( email )

206 Raitt Hall
Box 353412
Seattle, WA 98195-3412
United States

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