Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



There is accumulating evidence that social diffusion processes affect the pace of the adoption of modern contraception in societies undergoing fertility transition. In settings where mortality has declined and many other social and economic changes are underway, decisions about contraception are fraught with uncertainty and risk. In such circumstances, couples may rely on other persons for information and guidance. In this paper, we examine the influence of informal social networks on the contraceptive behavior of reproductive-age women, using longitudinal data collected in six communities in southern Ghana. Our results confirm the hypothesis that adoption of modern contraception is strongly affected by the reproductive attitudes and behaviors of social network partners. What might be termed “social contagion” accelerates the adoption of contraception. Finally, our data reveal that social networks are structured along the lines of social, economic, and cultural characteristics, suggesting further pathways by which socioeconomic variables can influence reproductive behavior.