Preliminary research findings are presented for the determinants of the use of modern contraception in three East African countries (Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania) and the importance of these determinants in accounting for the areal variation in contraceptive use. This study analyses Demographic and Health Surveys data for each country using multilevel logistic regression models. The findings show that there are similarities in the factors associated with modern contraceptive use in each country. The individual / household factors do account for some areal variation in contraceptive use, but significant variation remains. There is evidence that this unexplained variation is accounted for by unobserved contextual factors.