Economics Thesis Spotlight: Michaela Fogarty ’19

The senior international economics major explores the relationship between contraceptive use and women’s decision-making power in Indonesia.

Name: Michaela J. Fogarty '19

Major: International Economics

Minor: Policy Studies

Faculty mentor: Steve DeLoach, professor of economics and chair of the Department of Economics

Title of research: Impacts of Contraception on Women’s Decision-Making Power in Indonesia


Increasing access to contraception has the potential to empower women and improve the economic standing of families across the globe. Many researchers have explored the impacts of contraception on families and the determinants of women’s level of empowerment, but little scholarship exists on their direct relationship. This paper explores the impacts of contraceptive use on women’s empowerment, measured by an index of women’s household decision-making power. Panel data from three rounds of the Indonesian Family Life Survey is used to run multiple regressions with household fixed effects. Results suggest that women who use contraception have input on two additional types of household decisions, compared to women who do not use contraception. Types include decisions on food expenditure, children’s education, and time the wife spends socializing. Though additional research is necessary to prove causation and further understand this relationship, these preliminary findings support that use of contraception increases women's decision-making power in their households.

In other words:

When women in Indonesia use contraception, they gain decision-making power in their households. Access to contraception empowers women.

Explanation of study/potential impact of findings:

These findings provide a quantitative link between women’s empowerment and contraception, which can be used to support the expansion of programs that provide contraception and information about family planning. Contraception should be considered in international initiatives to empower women. Past research has established that increasing access to contraception decreases fertility rates and increases women’s educational attainment; this research provides evidence that contraception may also lead to further empowerment of women.

Why did you pick this topic? How did you get started?

Throughout my college career, I’ve been interested in research on women’s empowerment and the role of women in the world economy. While interning at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, I heard patient stories about how contraception and family planning services change the lives of women around the world. I wanted to explore the quantitative impacts of contraception in developing parts of the world. My coursework in economics and public health helped prepare me to explore existing data from Indonesia and create a research question.

How has your mentor impacted you/your research process?

Dr. DeLoach has supported me through every step of the research process – crafting my research question, finding data, writing code, interpreting results, communicating my findings, and preparing for presentations and publication. He encouraged me to create a thesis that I am proud to submit to journals for publication. I am grateful for the support I received from him and all the economics faculty.

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