Data about birth-control in India: Myths and Realities

The Asian Age has an interesting article with data on India’s birth-rates and efficacy of our birth-control programs

Here are some interesting excerpts:

good news is that the increase in contraceptive prevalence has been larger and faster among illiterate and uneducated women than those with schooling.

According to the International Institute of Population Sciences (EPW Arokiasamy 2009), more than two fifths of the reduction in Total Fertility Rate country-wide is attributable to illiterate women. The study calls it “remarkable demographic behaviour which has given significant direct health benefits to women and children — almost equal to what educational improvement has done for progress in human development.”

But all is not good:

Now some disappointments: States which continue to lag behind are the same — Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan — some 284 problem districts account for nearly half India’s population and 60 per cent of the yearly births countrywide.


Among 18 to 24-year-old couples the contraceptive prevalence rate is not even 19 per cent. In many districts it is as low as 10 per cent. According to NFHS -3 and the latest Annual Health Survey, in Bihar more than half the women in the child bearing group are not using any family planning method.

and the worst part is:

In India, female sterilization continues to be the most dominant method of birth control even though women overwhelmingly favour non-invasive options.


In the absence of tools that do not depend on partner-co-operation (condoms) or adherence to rigid regimens (pills), a poor woman confronts the prospect of an unwanted pregnancies every month, until somebody agrees to escort her for an operation.

Do Muslims procreate much more than Hindus? Apparently, Muslims are a little worse off in this aspect, but not as bad as is widely believed. Here is the data:

That brings one to a widespread myth relating to the practice of contraception by religion. Professor P.M. Kulkarni at JNU who has researched differentials in population growth among Hindus and Muslims (using NFHS data) says that all religious communities have experienced substantial fertility decline and contraceptive practice has been well accepted by all. Within religious faiths, 85 per cent of Hindu women would like to limit the family to two children whereas in the case of Muslim women, the figure is 66 per cent.


The belief that religion and religious fiats discourage contraception among Muslims is not borne out by statistics.

An even more significant aspect of his analysis of NFHS data shows that the unmet need for family planning is one and a half times more among Muslim women than Hindu women.

Another interesting aspect is that the kinds of contraceptives preferred by Muslim women is different from that of Hindus:

In terms of contraceptive use, Muslim women’s use of the pill is almost twice that of Hindu women and the use of IUD is also higher compared to Hindu women. Two things can be concluded: First that among the rural poor, the difference in fertility between Hindus and Muslims is not as marked as is usually supposed.

Second: there is a perceptible difference in the preferred method of contraception: Muslim women seem to be more open to the use of it.

Read the full article for more details.

Why Diversity Pays – Diverse groups tend to make more sensible decisions

Tim Harford has an interesting article where he has collected together data from various sources indicating that groups that carve out space for different perspectives tend to make more sensible decisions.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

In the Journal of Financial Economics, Renée Adams and Daniel Ferreira found that female directors seemed to provide better oversight, and to inspire their male colleagues to do likewise. In the Financial Review, David Carter, Betty Simkins and W Gary Simpson found a correlation between firm value and diversity on the board.

and, according to a study, of trades by female company directors, that looked at tens of thousands of trades in UK companies from 1994 to 2006,

fund managers should be paying more attention to what female directors do.

Why? Because they make more money when they buy shares. On a medium-term timescale, from three months to a year, their trades outperform those of their male counterparts.

Read the full article