Diffusion Theory in Sub-Saharan Africa: Economic Development, Family Planning Knowledge, and Contraceptive Use at the Subnational Level

Jaclyn Butler , Pennsylvania State University

Representing a traditional application of and an extension of diffusion theory, this paper analyzes the diffusion of family planning knowledge and contraceptive use among micro-regions in Sub-Saharan Africa from the 1990s through the 2010s. Data are integrated from three sources (U.N. World Population Division, the Global Data Lab, and the DHS) to analyze 400,000 women in 125 micro-regions in 12 African countries with varying levels of development (subnational HDI). In RQ1, I examine the relationship between national HDI in 28 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (including the 12 sample countries) and the onset and pacing of the fertility decline at the national level in those countries. In RQ2, I address how the diffusion of family planning knowledge and contraceptive usage varies across the 125 micro-regions with low, medium, and high levels of development (subnational HDI). Although levels of family planning knowledge are expected to converge at varying levels of development, the level of development is expected to continue to matter for contraceptive usage, with less developed micro-regions maintaining persistently lower levels of contraceptive use than more developed micro-regions. In RQ3, I address whether the relationships in RQ2 remain robust when accounting for women-level characteristics in the micro-regions, and I further examine the role of media exposure in the diffusion of fertility knowledge, attitudes, and patterns of behavior (KAP) across micro-regions. The paper will conclude with a discussion about the characteristics that promote or inhibit the diffusion of fertility KAP through the channels of social interaction.

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 Presented in Session 130. Fertility over Time and Space