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Working Papers

Subjective Expectations and Demand for Contraception (with Grant Miller and Aureo de Paula). Policy Briefing. Revisions requested by the Journal of Econometrics.


One-quarter of married, fertile-age women in Sub-Saharan Africa report not wanting a pregnancy and yet do not practice contraception.  We collect detailed data on the subjective beliefs of married, adult women not wanting a pregnancy and estimate a structural model of contraceptive choices.  Both our structural model and a validation exercise using an exogenous shock to beliefs show that correcting women's beliefs about pregnancy risk absent contraception can increase use considerably.  Our structural estimates further indicate that costly interventions like eliminating supply constraints would only modestly increase contraceptive use, while confirming the importance of partners' preferences highlighted in related literature.

Saving Neonatal Lives at Scale: Lessons for Targeting (with Hans H. Sievertsen and Mahesh C. Puri). This supersedes a paper circulated under the title "Saving Neonatal Lives for a Quarter".


Neonatal mortality contributes an increasing share of under-5 mortality. Experimental estimates of a low-cost preventive measure (chlorhexidine cord care) vary widely, leading to external validity concerns. We provide the first quasi-experimental estimates of the effect of a nationwide roll out and apply machine-learning (ML) to analyze treatment effect heterogeneity in a nationally-representative, Nepalese dataset. We find that the program decreases neonatal mortality by 43% and that a simple targeting policy leveraging heterogeneous treatment effects improves neonatal survival relative to WHO recommendations. Heterogeneous treatment effects extrapolated from our ML analysis are broadly in line with experimental findings across five countries.

Are Self-Reported Fertility Preferences Biased? Evidence from Indirect Elicitation Methods (with Wen Qiang Toh, Inuwa Jalingo, Aurélia Lépine, Aureo de Paula, and Grant Miller). Draft available upon request.


Desired fertility measures are routinely collected and used by researchers and policy makers, but their self-reported nature raises the possibility of reporting bias. In this paper we test for the presence of such bias by comparing responses to direct survey questions with indirect questions offering a varying, randomized, degree of confidentiality to respondents in a socioeconomically diverse sample of Nigerian women (N = 6,256). We find that women report higher fertility preferences when asked indirectly, but only when their responses afford them complete confidentiality. Our results suggest that there may be fewer unintended pregnancies than currently thought, and that the effectiveness of family planning policy targeting may be weakened by the bias we uncover. We conclude with suggestions for future work on how to mitigate reporting bias.

Women's (and Men's) Probabilistic Beliefs about Contraception and Contraceptive Use in a High-Fertility Environment (with Grant Miller, Bintu Ibrahim Abba and Aureo de Paula). Draft available upon request.


One-quarter of married women in Sub-Saharan Africa report not wishing to become pregnant, but also not using any form of contraception---often not because of inadequate supply or cost of contraceptives. In this paper, we use detailed new data from a large, diverse sample of women and their husbands across Nigeria (the most populous country in Sub-Saharan Africa) to study the accuracy of probabilistic beliefs about pregnancy risk and contraception and their relationship to actual contraceptive choices. We document systematically mistaken beliefs held by respondents, and we find that two are also strongly related to actual contraceptive choices: women’s underestimation of pregnancy risk absent contraception and women’s mistaken beliefs about their partners’ approval of contraception. Partner approval may not easily be amenable to change, but importantly, our results suggest that credible, contextually-tailored information about pregnancy risk absent contraception could align women’s contraceptive choices more closely with their fertility desires and therefore reduce unwanted pregnancies.

Minimum Wages, Education, and Inter-generational Inequality (with Luyang Chen and Hans H. Sievertsen). Draft coming soon.

Selected Work in Progress

Poverty Traps and Female Labor Force Participation, with Ragui Assaad, Adam Osman and William Parienté. Status: Intervention completed. Endline survey completed. AEARCTR-0009041

Perceived Risk of Pregnancy and Demand for Contraception, with Aureo de Paula and Grant Miller. Status: Intervention completed. AEARCTR-0012993

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