Most studies of contraceptive use have relied solely on the woman's perspective, but because men's attitudes and preferences are also important, analytic approaches based on couples should also be explored.
Data from the 2006–2010 and 2011–2013 rounds of the National Survey of Family Growth yielded a sample of 4,591 men and women who were married or cohabiting with an opposite-sex partner and who had completed their intended childbearing. Respondents’ reports of both their own and their partners’ characteristics and behaviors were employed in two sets of analyses examining educational and racial and ethnic differences in contraceptive use: an individualistic approach (using multinomial logistic regression) and a couple approach (using multinomial logistic diagonal reference models).
In the full model using the individualistic approach, respondents with less than a high school education were less likely than those with at least a college degree to rely on male sterilization (odds ratios, 0.1–0.2) or a reversible method (0.4–0.5), as opposed to female sterilization. Parallel analyses limited to couples in which partners had the same educational levels (i.e., educationally homogamous couples) showed an even greater difference between those with the least and those with the most schooling (0.03 for male sterilization and 0.2 for a reversible method). When race and ethnicity, which had a much higher level of homogamy, were examined, the approaches yielded more similar results.
Research on contraceptive use can benefit from a couple approach, particularly when focusing on partners’ characteristics for which homogamy is relatively low.
Mieke C.W. Eeckhaut is assistant professor, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware, Newark.