Travelling the Distance: A GPS-Based Study of the Access to Birth Registration Services in Latin America and the Caribbean

Mar 2012
Birth registration is essential to guarantee a child's right to an identity. Without proper documentation of their identity, children have limited access to health, education and social assistance, laying the foundation for lifelong exclusion. Geographic distance to registration facilities is often cited as a significant barrier in qualitative surveys. Using Global Positioning System (GPS) data, this paper quantifies the impact of distance on birth registration in Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Peru. The results suggest that increasing the distance to the nearest registry office by 25 kilometers is associated with a 4 percentage point increase in the probability of not registering a child's birth in Bolivia, and 12 percentage points in the Dominican Republic. These effects are as or more important than other socioeconomic characteristics that also affect birth registration, such as maternal education levels and the ability to deliver in a health center. In Peru, distance did not appear to be statistically significant, in line with both the lowest percentage of unregistered births and more even geographic distribution of access to civil registries than Bolivia and the Dominican Republic.