The relationship between reproductive health and economic growth has long been of interest to academics as well as policymakers across the world. However, the empirical relationship between these variables has been difficult to establish. In 2005, a report by the Population and Development Working Group of the Center for Global Development outlined a research agenda to review the relationship between reproductive health and economic outcomes at both the macro and microlevels. The report also established clear priorities for data collection. On the basis of this report, research funding was awarded to 38 investigators and dissertation funding was awarded to 18 Ph.D. candidates. This paper summarizes the key achievements of this research and also highlights new issues as well as unanswered questions.
Among the many achievements that will be summarized in this paper, three are particularly noteworthy. First, the new research has focused heavily on countries in sub-Saharan Africa and collected microeconomic and demographic data in countries, districts, cities, and villages that have previously been at the margins of social science research. Second, the research has established a much needed evidence base for the relationship between reproductive health interventions and health and economic outcomes. While many of the results are preliminary, the evidence so far confirms that the benefits of reproductive health programs extend to a broad array of indicators that go well beyond the health of the women they target and include the health, income, savings, education, and well-being of other family members. This is a very important insight for ensuring continued support for reproductive health programs in the developing world. Third, the research promises to shed light on numerous ʺbest practicesʺ for the design of reproductive health programs. It has provided insights into the most cost-effective family planning services and the benefits of bundling services such as immunization for infants and early-childhood nutrition programs with family planning. The research has also provided insights into the comparative benefits of providing women with conditional cash transfers and/or other services such as counseling, education, and training.