MPIDR Working Paper

Bayesian spatial analysis of demographic survey data: an application to contraceptive use at first sexual intercourse

Borgoni, R., Billari, F. C.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2002-048, 44 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (October 2002)
Open Access


In this paper we analyze the spatial patterns of the risk of unprotected sexual intercourse for Italian women during their initial experience with sexual intercourse. We rely on geo-referenced survey data from the Italian Fertility and Family Survey, and we use a Bayesian approach relying on weakly informative prior distributions. Our analyses are based on a logistic regression model with a multilevel structure. The spatial pattern uses an intrinsic Gaussian conditional autoregressive (CAR) error component. The complexity of such a model is best handled within a Bayesian framework, and statistical inference is carried out using Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulation. In contrast with previous analyses based on multilevel model, our approach avoids the restrictive assumption of independence between area effects. This model allows us to borrow strength from neighbors in order to obtain estimates for areas that may, on their own, have inadequate sample sizes. We show that substantial geographical variation exists within Italy (Southern Italy has higher risks of unprotected first-time sexual intercourse), and that the spatial pattern is stable across birth cohorts. The findings are robust with respect to the specification of the prior distribution. We argue that spatial analysis can give useful insights on unmet reproductive health needs. (KEYWORDS: spatial statistical demography, contraceptive use, hierarchical Bayesian modeling, Monte Carlo Markov Chain, multilevel statistical models, Italy, FFS)
Keywords: Italy, contraceptive usage
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.