Link between Poverty Reduction and Reproductive Health

There is a strong link between reproductive health and poverty reduction. This paper analyses the evidence based on three reproductive health outcomes which are early childbearing, maternal survival, and unintended pregnancy. Building on the “capacities” approach to poverty assessment advocated by Amartya Sen, this evidence is organized in a framework that includes health and education outcomes for mothers and children as well as household consumption and production effects. Generally, the evidence on health effects is strongest, household well-being weakest, and education in between. As reproductive health outcomes and other household-level explanatory variables are influenced by each other, causal relationships are hard to establish. An important finding is that relationships are context specific and that one cannot look at individual characteristics without reference to contextual variables. One reason why much existing research has not effectively addressed the effects of poor reproductive health on poverty is that studies have relied on survey data for a single point in time. Rather than propose new surveys, initial research could work with existing data resources. Pursuit of causal relationships between poor reproductive health outcomes and poverty should not paralyze efforts to make better use of existing country-level evidence in Poverty Reduction Strategies and other documents that guide resource allocation.


Greene, M. E., & Merrick, T. (2005). Poverty reduction: does reproductive health matter? (Vol. 33399). World bank.

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