Evidence suggests that as Rwanda has strengthened its family planning program, disparities in contraceptive use by socioeconomic status have narrowed. However, the changes in these gaps, and the mechanisms that underlie them, are not well understood.
Data from the 2005, 2010 and 2015 Rwanda Demographic and Health Surveys on 19,028 in-union women aged 15–49 were analyzed to examine trends in socioeconomic disparities in contraceptive use. Descriptive statistics and multivariate regression with interaction terms were used to identify changes in these disparities, as well as to describe trends in desired fertility, and in types and sources of contraceptives used.
Between 2005 and 2015, the prevalence of modern contraceptive use rose from 11% to 48%. In the regression analysis, interaction terms indicated that prevalence increased to a lesser extent among women who were wealthy, had a least a secondary education or lived in urban areas than among those who were poor, were uneducated or lived in rural areas (odds ratios, 0.5–0.7). In parallel, declines in desired fertility were greater among women with no education than among those with at least a secondary education (by 0.7 vs. 0.5 children); among the poorest than the richest women (by 1.0 vs. 0.5 children); and among rural than urban residents (by 0.9 vs. 0.4 children).
The shrinking of gaps in contraceptive use by socioeconomic status coincided with narrowing of disparities in demand for children and with improvements in family planning services, suggesting that disadvantaged populations may have especially benefited from public programs to increase contraceptive access.