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Unmet Need for Family Planning in Developing Countries and Implications for Population Policy


  • John B. Casterline
  • Steven W. Sinding


Unmet need for family planning has been a core concept in international population discourse for several decades. This article reviews the history of unmet need and the development of increasingly refined methods of its empirical measurement and delineates the main questions that have been raised about unmet need during the past decade, some of which concern the validity of the concept and others its role in policy debates. The discussion draws heavily on empirical research conducted during the 1990s, much of it localized, in-depth studies combining quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Of the causes of unmet need other than those related to access to services, three emerge as especially salient: lack of necessary knowledge about contraceptive methods, social opposition to their use, and health concerns about possible side effects. The article argues that the concept of unmet need for family planning, by joining together contraceptive behavior and fertility preferences, encourages an integration of family planning programs and broader development approaches to population policy. By focusing on the fulfillment of individual aspirations, unmet need remains a defensible rationale for the formulation of population policy and a sensible guide to the design of family planning programs. Copyright 2000 by The Population Council, Inc..

Suggested Citation

  • John B. Casterline & Steven W. Sinding, 2000. "Unmet Need for Family Planning in Developing Countries and Implications for Population Policy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 26(4), pages 691-723.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:26:y:2000:i:4:p:691-723

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    Cited by:

    1. Mark Montgomery & Paul Hewett, 2005. "Urban poverty and health in developing countries: Household and neighborhood Effects," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 42(3), pages 397-425, August.
    2. Khama Rogo & Tshiya Subayi & Nahid Toubia & Eiman Hussein Sharief, 2007. "Female Genital Cutting, Women's Health, and Development : The Role of the World Bank," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6619.
    3. Veeramatha C S, 2007. "Reproductive and Child Health Programmes in The Urban Slums of Bangalore City: A Study on Unmet Needs for Family Welfare Services," Working Papers 182, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore.
    4. repec:spr:demogr:v:55:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s13524-018-0658-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:spr:demogr:v:55:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0638-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Michael Grimm & Robert Sparrow & Luca Tasciotti, 2015. "Does Electrification Spur the Fertility Transition? Evidence From Indonesia," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(5), pages 1773-1796, October.
    7. Dasgupta, A. & Dasgupta, P., 2017. "Socially Embedded Preferences, Environmental Externalities, and Reproductive Rights," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1724, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    8. Kerry MacQuarrie & Jeffrey Edmeades, 2015. "Whose Fertility Preferences Matter? Women, Husbands, In-laws, and Abortion in Madhya Pradesh, India," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 34(4), pages 615-639, August.
    9. Arland Thornton & Rachael Pierotti & Linda Young-DeMarco & Susan Watkins, 2014. "Developmental Idealism and Cultural Models of the Family in Malawi," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 33(5), pages 693-716, October.
    10. John Bongaarts, 2010. "The causes of educational differences in fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 8(1), pages 31-50.
    11. Anthony A. Leiserowitz & Robert W. Kates & Thomas M. Parris, 2004. "Sustainability Values, Attitudes, and Behaviors: A Review of Multi-national and Global Trends," CID Working Papers 113, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    12. World Bank, 2010. "Determinants and Consequences of High Fertility," World Bank Other Operational Studies 27497, The World Bank.

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