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Price and Income Elasticities of Demand for Modern Health Care: The Case of Infant Delivery in the Philippines


Schwartz, J. Brad; Akin, John S.; & Popkin, Barry M. (1988). Price and Income Elasticities of Demand for Modern Health Care: The Case of Infant Delivery in the Philippines. World Bank Economy Review, 2(1), 49-76.


In the Philippines most women choose to deliver at home despite the presence of modern facilities. Policy-making requires a knowledge of the factors that determine that choice, especially in terms of variables like price and location, which are amenable to policy intervention. Over 2/3 of the babies born in low-income countries are delivered by traditional birth attendants who are uneducated and have no formal training. They are, however, available in rural areas, whereas 70-90% of the modern practitioners are in the cities. Recently efforts have been made to expand modern obstetrical services in developing countries, but few surveys are available documenting the impact of modern facilities on delivery patterns. The present survey collected data from 3075 women who had singleton births on the island of Cebu between 1983 and 1984, as well as data from 48 modern public and private health facilities and 88 modern and traditional health practitioners. For the analysis of these data an economic demand model was built, using the mixed multinomial logit technic to estimate relationships between delivery characteristics, mothers' characteristics, and delivery choice. Money prices were not a significant factor in the choices, but time prices were a significant consideration for the rural sample. Hours of availability were a significant factor for both urban and rural mothers, and availability of drugs was significant for the urban sample. Both rural and urban women preferred delivery by a midwife, trained or not, to delivery by a combination of doctors, nurses, and midwives. With few exceptions, income was not a significant factor, and having insurance (10% of the sample) increased the probability of choosing a modern private practitioner. Money price effects were inelastic; i.e., a price increase by modern facilities would not have much effect on the choice of these facilities, and lowering the price of modern public delivery services would do little to increase demand for them. Locating more public practitioners and facilities in rural areas could effectively increase the use of modern facilities by rural women. Both urban and rural women would increase their use of modern public away-from-home facilities if these facilities would increase their hours of operation. Having drugs available would also increase the use of the public away-from-home facilities. In both urban and rural samples, trained midwives were the practitioners of choice. Among rural women a rise in income would increase the likelihood of their choosing public and private away-from-home deliveries and home deliveries by private practitioners. From the point of view of public policy, the most significant implications of the study are: 1) decreasing travel time for rural women by locating modern facilities and practitioners in rural areas would increase the use of modern delivery services; 2) increasing hours of operation, increasing the availability of drugs, and providing trained midwives at public facilities would increase the use of modern delivery services; 3) decreasing money prices would not increase use of modern public delivery services; and 4) increasing the price for cost recovery would not decrease the use of modern public delivery services.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

World Bank Economy Review


Schwartz, J. Brad
Akin, John S.
Popkin, Barry M.