Paid to Delay Marriage and Childbirth?

Paying someone to delay marriage? How about paying to delay childbirth? Yesterday Jim Yardley of the New York Times explored just that practice in India. Early marriage is not an issue here in the United States where the average age of marriage is 28 for men and 26 for women. But in developing countries such as India, early marriage and childbirth lead to high fertility, putting strains not just on women and their families, but also on emerging economies. Yardley explores how many rural women in India wed as teenagers, and then have babies in quick succession; a pattern that, according to experts cited by Yardley, “exacerbates poverty and spurs what demographers call ‘population momentum’ by bunching children together.”

The Indian government is using what it terms a ‘honeymoon package,’ payment of 5,000 rupees, or about $106, if couples wait to have children. But is this really the way to affect change? Sure, a couple may respond positively to the idea of payment, but what about the familial and cultural pressures that lead to early marriage and childbirth in the first place?

Paying people to change their behavior is a top down strategy that does not create communal buy-in for larger cultural transformations. So what does work to create lasting change? Investing in a community-based approach where everyone from grandparents to parents to young children truly believe that their futures can be different if they actively make their own decisions to wait for marriage and childbirth—and encourage their friends, family, and community to do the same.

At Pathfinder, we’ve seen great success with this community-based approach combined with access to comprehensive reproductive health care services through our PRACHAR* project in Bihar, India. Within just a few years of PRACHAR beginning, young women delayed their marriage by 1.5 years and childbearing by 2 years. This has created huge changes in one of poorest and most populous states in India. In addition, the number of women using contraception to space their second child increased from 6% to 25%. Pathfinder is now working with the Bihar government to scale-up this successful program throughout the state.

PRACHAR’s success has implications for India and beyond. Worldwide more than 3 billion people—about half the world’s population—are under the age of 25. We cannot pay them all to wait to get married, or have their first child. But we can make the commitment as a global community to invest in their futures by giving them the tools and services they need to make healthy reproductive decisions.

There are myriad ways you can help support that change. You can take action by sharing a video on and $1 will go toward reproductive health services for women and girls. You can sign a petition for world leaders to invest in sexual and reproductive rights and health. Or you can read about the unique 3 Billion Reasons Campaign to raise awareness among governments and the international health community about this urgent issue.

Either way, we’ll be creating real change and opportunities for the world’s young people, especially young women, that will have momentum for generations to come—and that’s really what’s needed, not cash incentives.

*The PRACHAR project is led by Pathfinder International with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, UNFPA and most importantly, the Bihar Government.    

Photo: Karl Grobl, Pathfinder International.


Mari Rhame
Mira Rhame7 years ago

What difference does it make, except that the enrichment may help to get a couple ready. How much curry can you buy? Just kidding I love their culture of being non killing of animals for eating. Being just this aware is amazing. I went to a big birthday party and I was the only vegan, vegetarian live food to live..........dead animals putrify the body... at least we all know that part right? India rocks the veggies!

Jose Ramon Fisher Rodrigu

Education and information will help more than money. Teaching people how to resist social pressure is important. For example, I was married this year and have gotten exasperated at the number of people who ask when we're going to have children or say that we should do so right away.

Marina Brennan
Marina Brennan7 years ago

Give a man a fish and he will be fed for day. Teach a man how to fish, and he will be fed for life.
Those people shouldn't be paid be to delay having children. They will take the money and follow their customs anyway. Education and emancipation of women will have much better results. Take the money and invest them into:
1. Family planning classes that involve learning biology at an early age.
2. Discounts for contraceptives
3. Education for men and women alike. if men don't think that their wives are capable of anything but to stay home and spit out children, it doesn't matter how much education women have. They will eventually succumb to the pressure of husbands and extended families. Even here women give up their careers and sometimes dreams to have kids.
4. Women should be taught how to build businesses or find satisfaction in something else other than children. Maybe they have multiple babies because only children can give them love and respect, at least at an early age.

Maarja L.
Maarja L7 years ago

It may not be the best idea, but if it works, then... better something insufficient than nothing at all.

Ann P.
A P7 years ago

I don't think we do countries any favors by providing food only and not providing contraception and education (especially ensuring opportunities for girls) as an integral part of aid. Otherwise we are only ensuring more poverty.

Lindsay Thorpe
Lindsay T7 years ago

Doesn't research show that education for women is the most effective contraception? I think that there is actually a mathematical ratio between women's education and female fertility. For every year of education a woman has, she has one or two fewer children. So probably a multi-focussed approach, adapted for different countries and regions, works best. This would include:
1) more funding for basic education for women
2) clean water so fewer babies & children catch preventable diseases & die in infancy
3) rural as well as urban maternal health care
4) paying people to delay marriage and childbirth.

Faisal Mushtaq
Faisal Mushtaq7 years ago

its natural to get marry and having children. The question is how many children -- they can approach other solutions, its not the way to stop anything with money.

megan m.
megan m7 years ago

I support paying people to not have children at all. This planet has too many human beings on it right now.

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p7 years ago

i think it can be a step in a right direction,

Chris L.
Chris L7 years ago

I would think that providing a chance for women to get higher education and employment opportunities creates an environment with fewer children. One reason for more children, the need for someone to support you in your old age. When you have more self-supporting people, they have less time to have kids and start focusing on providing better opportunities for education and futures for the ones they do have. Just look at how our culture has changed from large farm family mentalities to smaller more manageable family structures.