Karra Publishes Article on Measurement of Unmet Need for Contraception

Mahesh Karra, Assistant Professor of Global Development Policy at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies and Associate Director of the Human Capital Initiative at the School’s Global Development Policy Center (GDP Center), has published an article in Studies in Family Planning (SFP) on the measurement of unmet need 

Up to 215 million women, or 26 percent of sexually active women of reproductive age (WRA), are not using a contraceptive method even when they want to avoid becoming pregnant – these women account for an estimated 82 percent of all unintended pregnancies. As a result, it has become incumbent on family planning and reproductive health programs to demonstrate that demand for contraception and family planning exists and to measure the extent to which this demand for contraception is met or remains unmet.

In his article, titled “Measurement of Unmet Need for Contraception: A Counterfactual Approach,” Karra proposes a counterfactual-based approach to measuring unmet need at the population level and determines that this measure is a more effective measure than current indicators.

From the abstract:

Using data from 56 countries, we calculate unmet need in a population as the difference between: (1) the observed contraceptive prevalence in the population; and (2) the calculated contraceptive prevalence in a subsample of women who are identified to be from “ideal” family planning environments…We find significant differences between our approach and existing methods to calculating unmet need, and we observe variation across countries when comparing indicators. We argue that our indicator of unmet need is preferable to existing population-level indicators due to its independence from biases that are generated from the use of reported preference measures, the simplicity with which it can be derived, and its relevance for cross-country comparisons as well as context-specific analyses.

The full article can be read on SFP‘s website.

Mahesh Karra’s academic and research interests are broadly in development economics, health economics, quantitative methods, and applied demography. His research utilizes experimental and non-experimental methods to investigate the relationships between population, health, and economic development in low- and middle-income countries. Read more about Professor Karra on his faculty profile.