The Importance of Family Planning in developing countries

From William A. Percy
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Here is a letter to the editor in April 13, 2008 issue of The New York Times Book Review by Peter J. Donaldson the president of the Population Council.

To the Editor:

In his review of Matthew Connelly's "Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population"(March 23), Nicholas D. Kristof repeats as fact Connelly's canard that "even according to the most favorable contemporary planning efforts explained less than 5 percent of fertility levels in developing countries."

A few extremist critics of family planning have argued for decades that family planning programs are responsible for only a small percentage of the decline in fertility in developing countries. Their estimates are based on inappropriate statistical methods.

The bulk of scientific evidence suggests a different view. Using more appropriate statistical techniques than the studies Connelly cites John Bongaarts estimates that from 1960 to 1990, family planning programs were responsible for at least 23 percent of the fertility decline in developing countries.

When Bongaarts weights his calculations to take account of country size, the impact of family planning programs increases to 43 percent because of the impact of the largest countries (China, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh). The results of controlled experiments also demonstrate the substantial independent effect of family planning programs. These studies are much closer to reality than those Connelly cites and Kristof repeats.

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