Center for Global Development
There is longstanding debate about the contribution of family planning programs to fertility decline. Studying the staggered introduction of family planning across Malaysia during the 1960s and 1970s, we find modest responses in fertility behavior. Higher (but not lower) parity birth hazards declined by one-quarter—but imply only a 5 percent decline in the overall annual probability of birth. Age at marriage rose by 0.48 years, but birth spacing conditional on this did not otherwise change. Overall, Malaysia’s total fertility rate declined by about one quarter birth under family planning, explaining only about 10 percent of the national fertility decline between 1960 and 1988. Our findings are consistent with growing evidence that global fertility decline is predominantly due to underlying changes in the demand for children.