“My Religion Picked My Birth Control”: The Influence of Religion on Contraceptive Use


This research investigates the influence of religious preference and practice on the use of contraception. Much of earlier research examines the level of religiosity on sexual activity. This research extends this reasoning by suggesting that peer group effects create a willingness to mask the level of sexuality through the use of contraception. While it is understood that certain religions, that is, Catholicism does not condone the use of contraceptives, this research finds that Catholics are more likely to use certain methods of contraception than other religious groups. With data on contraceptive use from the Center for Disease Control’s Family Growth Survey, a likelihood probability model is employed to investigate the impact religious affiliation on contraception use. Findings suggest a preference for methods that ensure non-pregnancy while preventing feelings of shame and condemnation in their religious communities.

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  1. 1.

    The log-likelihood function L(β) has a gradient and hessian given by:

    \( \begin{gathered} \frac{\partial L(\beta )}{\partial \beta } = \sum {\left[ {\theta^{\prime } (C_{i} - e^{{\beta^{\prime } \theta }} )} \right]} = 0 \hfill \\ \frac{{\partial^{2} L(\beta )}}{\partial \beta \partial \beta '} = \sum {\left[ { -^{\prime } (C_{i}^{\prime } C_{i} )e^{{\beta^{\prime } \theta }} )} \right]} < 0 \hfill \\ \end{gathered} \)

    Equating the gradient to zero solves for β, and the negativity of the hessian ensures a global maximum of the log-likelihood estimator of the coefficients in β. If the contraception method during sexual activity in question is binary in that the individual engages in it (S i  = 1) or not (S i  = 0), then a Logit specification of C i is:

    \( {\text{Prob}}(C_{i} = 1|x) = \Upphi (\beta \theta ) \)

    where Φ(·) is a standard normal distribution. The log-likelihood function is

    \( L(\beta ) = \ln [(1 - \Upphi (\beta^{\prime } \theta )] + \ln \Upphi (\beta^{\prime } \theta ). \)

  2. 2.

    Adhoc Methods include, (Condom, withdrawal, Rhythm, temperature, Diaphragm, Female condom, Foam, Suppository and Emergency Contraception) and Non Adhoc Methods include (Pill, Vasectomy, Sterilization, Injectables, Implants, IUD, hormones, Patch).


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Correspondence to Nicholas J. Hill.

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Hill, N.J., Siwatu, M. & Robinson, A.K. “My Religion Picked My Birth Control”: The Influence of Religion on Contraceptive Use. J Relig Health 53, 825–833 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-013-9678-1

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  • Contraception
  • Family planning
  • Religiosity
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Poverty
  • Choice