Gender gaps in secondary education and early marriage
March 2015 - Closing gender gaps in education by improving female education require addressing discriminatory social norms such as early marriage. Education is essential for women’s and girl’s empowerment, but social norms, such as early marriage, force girls to abandon their education limiting educational opportunities. This is extremely important for developing countries where increased female education can be a catalyst for change leading to better health and employment outcomes and increase women’s decision-making power. However, early marriage remains prevalent in developing countries where 39 000 girls marry every day: one in three marries before the age of 19, and one in nine before the age of 15 (WHO, 2013).
The 2014 edition of the Social Institution and Gender Index (SIGI) highlights the negative consequences of early marriage in limiting women’s and girl’s empowerment by restricting their access to education, leading to poorer outcomes throughout their life. Early marriage, measured as a percentage of girls aged 15-19 ever married or in informal union, cuts short a girl’s education (Figure 1a) and helps explain persistent gender gaps in secondary school completion (Figure 1b). When the prevalence of early marriage increases, girl’s secondary school enrolment and completion rates decrease, which leads to higher gender gaps in secondary education. This also holds when factors such as country’s income and level of poverty, government expenditures on education, unemployment rates and share of female teachers are controlled for.
Higher prevalence of early marriage, lower female education and higher gender gaps
Note: The right-hand graph, Figure 1a, shows the relationship between early marriage prevalence rates and the predicted values of female secondary school enrolment rates (net), controlling for the country‘s level of poverty and GDP per capita, share of female teachers, government expenditures in education, female unemployment rates, urbanisation rates, regional dummies and year fixed-effects (on a four-year basis: 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010).
The left-hand graph, Figure 1b, shows the relationship between gender gap in early marriage and the predicted values of gender gap in secondary completion rates, controlling for the country‘s level of poverty and GDP per capita, share of female teachers, government expenditures in education, gender gap in unemployment rates, urbanisation rates, regional dummies and year fixed-effects (on a four-year basis: 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010).Source: OECD Gender Institutions and Development Database and World Development Indicators.
WHO (2013), “Child marriages: 39,000 every day”,World Health Organization, Geneva