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Beyond denomination: The relationship between religion and family planning in rural Malawi

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Despite the centrality of religion and fertility to life in rural Africa, the relationship between the two remains poorly understood. The study presented here uses unique integrated individual- and congregational-level data from rural Malawi to examine religious influences on contraceptive use. In this religiously diverse population, we find evidence that the particular characteristics of a congregation-leader's positive attitudes toward family planning and discussion of sexual morality, which do not fall along broad denominational lines-are more relevant than denominational categories for predicting women's contraceptive use. We further find evidence for a relationship between religious socialization and contraceptive behavior.


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