Bargaining Leverage in Family Planning: A Gender-based Analysis of Filipino Couples’ Reproductive Choices

Published at the International Journal for Studies on Children, Women, Elderly and Disabled People, Vol 9, January 2020


At the heart of the Philippines’ population problem is the high fertility rate among low-income households. The country’s total fertility rate remains the highest in Southeast Asia, averaging 2.7 births per woman as of 2017. Numerous studies have established the positive association between poverty and large family size. Most economic studies point to inadequate women’s education and lack of access or ineffective use of family planning methods as the main reasons behind high fertility. Less studied is the effect of the distribution of “power” or influence between the spouses. This research examined the problem using the collective household model as theoretical framework. The model recognizes individual preferences of spouses, thereby allowing a gender-based analysis of intrahousehold decision-making. This research utilized the 2003 Philippine national demographic data because, to date, this is the only survey where men were surveyed separately from women on a national scale, with a data subset of matched husbands and wives. The method of analysis employed independent multinomial probit regression, utilizing three dependent variables representing three categories of family planning based on the level of involvement of one or both spouses. These are (1) women-only methods, (2) couple-participation method, and (3) irreversible methods that required consent of both spouses. The econometric results reveal the gender-based differences in the way some power-related factors affected the probability of the man or the woman using certain types of family planning method: (1) support from extended family lowers the probability of using women-only contraception; (2) women’s discussion of family planning with other people—which can indicate some social capital—raises the probability of family planning use across categories; (3) exposure to family planning media messages affects men and women differently; and (4) difference in the couple’s education matters only in the use of women-based contraception. Interestingly, in contrast to the finding on women, the men’s discussion of family planning did not appear as a significant factor in the use of any type of family planning method.

Key words: intrahousehold bargaining; collective household model; family economics; family planning; fertility