Maternal Mortality Risk and Spousal Differences in the Demand for Children

47 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2020 Last revised: 18 Nov 2021

See all articles by Nava Ashraf

Nava Ashraf

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics

Erica Field

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business-Economics Group; Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative

Alessandra Voena

University of Chicago

Roberta Ziparo

Aix-Marseille University

Date Written: December 2020

Abstract

Fertility decisions are often made by partners who may disagree. We develop a model in which conflicting interests prevent effective communication between spouses about the costs of child-bearing incurred by women. This mechanism is likely to further widen the spousal disagreement over fertility in environments where maternal health risk is high and imperfectly observed. We design an intervention to experimentally vary exposure to information about maternal health costs to either the husband or the wife among approximately 500 couples in Lusaka, Zambia. At baseline, husbands exhibit lower knowledge of maternal health risk compared to their wives. One year after the intervention, husbands significantly update their beliefs about maternal risk but only if the information is delivered directly to them, whereas wives update their beliefs about risk regardless of who in the household is treated. The intra-household asymmetry in information spillovers is strongest among men with more urgent demand for children. Households treated with information on maternal risk experience a sizable reduction in the probability of pregnancy - an effect which is strongest when the woman faces a higher risk of complications - but only when the information is delivered to wives rather than husbands is this decline in fertility accompanied by a significant reduction in transfers to the wife. These patterns are consistent with differences in initial beliefs and demand for children generating a barrier to credible communication between spouses.

Institutional subscribers to the NBER working paper series, and residents of developing countries may download this paper without additional charge at www.nber.org.

Suggested Citation

Ashraf, Nava and Field, Erica and Voena, Alessandra and Ziparo, Roberta, Maternal Mortality Risk and Spousal Differences in the Demand for Children (December 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w28220, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3753130 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3753130

Nava Ashraf (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics ( email )

United Kingdom

Erica Field

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business-Economics Group ( email )

Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0097
United States
(919) 660-1857 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://sites.duke.edu/ericafield/

Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative ( email )

215 Morris St., Suite 300
Durham, NC 27701
United States

Alessandra Voena

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Roberta Ziparo

Aix-Marseille University ( email )

3 Avenue Robert Schuman
3 Avenue Robert Schuman,
Aix-en-Provence, 13628
France

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
3
Abstract Views
141
PlumX Metrics