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Dharmalingam, Arunachalam & Morgan, S. Philip (1996). Women's Work, Autonomy, and Birth Control: Evidence from Two South Indian Villages. Population Studies, 50(2), 187-201.


In this study we contrast two South Indian villages which offer women very different employment opportunities. Many women in Village I roll beedis, which are crude hand-rolled cigarettes. The structure of beedi work was designed to meet the needs of the beedi contractor, but inadvertently it has provided women with substantial autonomy. In Village II very few women work for pay. We argue that these different employment opportunities affect women's autonomy, which in turn influences important demographic outcomes. More precisely, we argue that greater autonomy will increase contraceptive use among women who want no more children. We find strong support for this hypothesis. But, because there are few competing employment opportunities in Village II, women in that Village have received substantially more education than those in Village I. This higher level of education is also associated with greater contraceptive use. Thus, overall, the level of contraceptive use does not vary greatly between villages. More generally, this study shows that fertility decline occurs, and that low fertility can exist, in very different settings.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Population Studies


Dharmalingam, Arunachalam
Morgan, S. Philip