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Essays on Fertility, Gender Preference and Family Planning in Iran


There is a large body of economic literature that documents the existence of son preference and its negative impact on girls’ accumulation of human capital. Some studies have found that gender preference is exacerbated when fertility declines. Many studies have also looked at the impact of availability of family planning on fertility. My work contributes to this literature by linking these together and measuring the impact of fertility control policies on gender preference at birth. Also, it presents the first quantitative study of gender preference at birth in Iran.

In the first essay, I provide a short history of fertility policies and population transition in Iran. In the second essay, I look at the government provided family planning program and its impact on the fertility decline in rural Iran. I estimate the association between a woman’s age of exposure to a clinic and her total number of children. I find that exposure to a health clinic at her most fertile ages (20-35) is associated with a 20% reduction in total number of children born to a woman, a significant drop (equivalent to one child).

In the third essay, I examine the extent of gender preference at birth in Iran and its impact on fertility decisions, using gender composition of first two children as a random experiment. I find that parents with a first born daughter will, on average, have more children; daughters are followed more quickly with another birth; and among all gender compositions, mothers with two daughters are most likely to continue child bearing.

I exploit the quasi-experimental expansion of rural health clinics providing family planning services in rural Iran. Using a difference in difference method, (with village fixed effects), I estimate the impact of access to family planning on gender biased fertility decisions. Availability of family planning is associated with a 12-17% reduction in probability of subsequent birth for mothers with two children. However, there is no difference in this probability based on gender composition of children. I find that access to family planning does not exacerbate son preference expressed through fertility in rural Iran.

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