Agenda-Setting of Population in Bangladesh and West Bengal and Impact on Fertility

Rifat Hasan, Harvard School of Public Health
Michael Reich, Harvard University
Guenther Fink, Harvard School of Public Health

Bangladesh’s fertility decline occurred subsequent to the adoption of population policies in the 1970s-1980s. West Bengal’s fertility decline occurred earlier and more gradually. Using a comparative qualitative case study method, we analyze how population got on the policy agenda, how agenda-setting influenced intent to implement, and the effect on fertility. We find that in Bangladesh, population got on the agenda in a top-down manner through internal decision-making, commitment of stakeholders and strong intent to implement. In West Bengal, the pro forma adoption of population policies was top-down from the national government, but the decision was external to the state’s decision-making. Political priority within the state was economic empowerment of the poorest – not population – resulting in weak intent to implement population policies. We hypothesize that Bangladesh’s fertility decline was driven mainly by family planning programs while West Bengal’s resulted from improvements in contextual factors – not family planning programs.

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Presented in Session 16: Contextual and Policy Influences on Reproductive Health and Fertility