The Importance of Local Violence for the Uptake and Timing of Female Sterilization: Evidence from the Colombian Armed Conflict 1989–2016

Signe Svallfors , Stockholm University

Altered fertility behavior has been observed in many conflict settings but few studies have empirically addressed fertility control or teased out differences between postponement, spacing and stopping in relation to conflict. This is the first study to empirically investigate the relationship between conflict and uptake of sterilization, which is the only contraceptive method that reflects a definitive and irreversible stop in childbearing. The study uses data from the Demographic and Health Surveys and the Uppsala Conflict Data Program with a sample of 11,648,913 woman-months (from 142,373 women) at ages 13–49 during the period 1991–2016. Results from the department fixed-effects linear probability regressions show that local conflict events generally increased women’s uptake of sterilization. Conflict thus alters women’s fertility choices and/or self-determination, but the available data cannot determine whether this reflects a willingness to definitely reduce births, forced sterilizations due to lack of reproductive autonomy, or a lack of access to reversible contraceptive methods. The effect of conflict may vary depending on the exposure time, as health care facilities may be more sensitive to the direct impact of conflict, while the psychological mechanisms related to empowerment and how women judge their situation may be more cumulative. The findings suggest that conflict has a more direct impact on the uptake of sterilization.

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 Presented in Session 117. Consequences of Armed Conflict for Childbearing