This Proceedings of a Workshop summarizes the presentations and discussions held at the Workshop on Family Planning, Women’s Empowerment, and Population and Societal Impacts, which took place virtually in September 2020 and was made available in real time by public web-cast. The workshop was convened with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and it was organized by a seven-member planning committee appointed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Over the past several decades, fertility rates have fallen substantially in low- and middle-income countries, and efforts to limit fertility, primarily through the implementation of family planning programs, have become increasingly widespread. Although there is a substantial scholarly literature on the determinants of contraceptive use and other measures to limit fertility and on the resulting differentials in fertility, relatively little is known about the role played by women’s empowerment as both a determinant and a consequence of fertility decline. In addition, there continues to be little consensus about the link between fertility decline and broader societal impacts, including economic development.
The goal of this workshop was to bring together experts and stakeholders to discuss conceptual, methodological, and policy issues regarding the relationships among family planning, women’s empowerment, fertility decline, and population and societal impacts. The discussion was intended to inform research and policy focused on the issues of women’s roles and
empowerment and on longstanding questions surrounding the determinants and consequences of fertility reduction behavior.
Box 1-1 contains the workshop’s statement of task. In his introductory remarks, Win Brown (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) framed the workshop as a revisitation of questions and themes explored in the 1986 National Research Council report on population growth and economic development.1 The modern context for this revisitation includes recent population projections by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which forecasts a decline in the global total fertility rate by 2100. Brown explained that the scholars in attendance at this workshop could provide valuable insights into the factors that have influenced these projections (e.g., women’s empowerment, modern contraceptive prevalence) and how those factors affect the foundational questions posed in the landmark 1986 report. Brown quoted the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away less than 1 week before the workshop took place: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life—to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself.”2 Brown described the influence that Ginsburg’s work had on the themes of this workshop, and sought to contextualize the workshop’s proceedings by reminding participants of both the importance and fragility of the research subjects under discussion.
This summary describes the workshop presentations and discussions that took place at the end of each session. The chapters are organized around the sessions of the workshop, which included the role of fertility decline and women’s empowerment in economic development and in other population and societal changes; measuring women’s empowerment; ways of addressing current data limitations; family planning, fertility, and women’s empowerment in low- and middle-income countries; and mechanisms of attitude change. The workshop also included a discussion with representatives of organizations and agencies that fund work in this area,
1 Working Group on Population Growth and Economic Development, Committee on Population, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council, Population Growth and Economic Development: Policy Questions (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1986).
2 The quotation is from Ginsburg’s testimony to the United States Senate during her confirmation hearing for a seat on the Supreme Court, August 3, 1993.
and a discussion of key themes and next steps by members of the workshop planning committee. The full meeting agenda is shown in the Appendix.
These proceedings have been prepared by the workshop rapporteur as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. The planning committee’s role was limited to planning and convening the workshop. The views contained in the proceedings are those of individual workshop participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all workshop participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
This page intentionally left blank.