Linguistic identity and choice of contraception methods: The curious reliance of the Bengali speaking community on behavioural methods

Zakir Husain, Presidency University
Pallabi Das, Institute of Development Studies Kolkata (IDSK)
Inder Sekhar Yadav, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur

This study examines the relationship between linguistic identity (a proxy for culture) and choice of contraception methods in India, especially focusing on Bengali linguistic community. It uses data from the second (1998-99), third (2005-06) and fourth (2015-16) round of National Family Health Survey. Information on women of reproductive age group who are currently married, not pregnant, using contraception methods, but are not sterilized are extracted from Individual women datasets. The study starts by highlighting the higher reliance on behavioural methods (withdrawal and rhythm methods) among the Bengali speaking than non-Bengali speaking respondents in India. Contrary to the common belief that such methods are popular among rural and less educated women, or those from religious communities which prohibit modern contraception methods, we show reliance on behavioural methods cuts across educational and economic groups. Further, Bengali speaking women can control their fertility effectively using behavioural methods. Possible explanations of this phenomenon such as job stress, delayed marriage, fear of side effects from invasive methods and son preference are examined, but fail to explain the situation. The high reliance of Bengali speaking women on behavioural methods remains a puzzle indicating the influence of culture— in the form of linguistic identity on reproductive behaviour.

Keywords: Family planning and contraception, Cultural and linguistic demography, Fertility and childbirth, Multi-level modeling

See paper.

  Presented in Session 154. Influence of Ethnicity and Minority status on Contraception Use