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Teenage, Married, and Out of School: Effects of early marriage and childbirth on school dropout

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Early marriage, attendance, DHS, household survey, teen pregnancy, Southern and Eastern Africa

Over the past decade, as Sub-Saharan Africa saw the expansion of universal primary enrollment policies, gender balance in primary school participation improved considerably, with girls now attending school almost at the same rate as boys. Gains in primary school, however, have not carried over to secondary: for every 100 boys, only 82 girls of secondary school age are enrolled across the region, up from 80 in the year 2000. Using recent household survey data from nine East and Southern African countries, this paper examines one possible reason for this persistent gender disparity; the effects of early marriage and pregnancy, and finds that marital status has a strong negative impact on school attendance. It also finds age and wealth effects on early marriage and school attendance among young women, and in an in-depth analysis of data from Malawi, both early marriage and to a lesser extent early pregnancy impact enrollment. These findings suggest that policies which specifically target girls who are at risk for early marriage and pregnancy, such as the Malawi readmission policy, rather than those aimed at girls education more generally, are likely to have a stronger impact.

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