Can women’s contraceptive method choice be better understood through risk compensation theory? This theory implies that people act with greater care when the perceived risk of an activity is higher and with less care when it is lower. We examine how increased over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) accompanied by marketing campaigns in India affected women’s contraceptive method choices and incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Although ECPs substantially reduce the risk of pregnancy, they are less effective than other contraceptive methods and do not reduce the risk of STIs. We test whether an exogenous policy change that increased access to ECPs leads people to substitute away from other methods of contraception, such as condoms, thereby increasing the risk of both unintended pregnancy and STIs. We find evidence for risk compensation in terms of reduced use of condoms but not for increases in rates of STIs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-294
Number of pages22
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021


  • Contraception
  • Emergency contraceptive pills
  • Risk compensation theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography


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