Adolescent pregnancy and education trajectories in Malawi

Case Studies & Research
17 p.

Education is a vital component of the preparation for adulthood, and is closely linked to transitions into marriage and parenting. Childbearing among adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa remains high, while primary school completion is far from universal. This paper uses longitudinal data from five rounds of the Malawi Schooling and Adolescent Study to investigate how becoming pregnant while attending school influences medium-term educational outcomes of young women. Employing multiple strategies to overcome potential endogeneity between pregnancy and education, we estimate the effect of pregnancy on enrollment, grade attainment, literacy, and numeracy. Preliminary results show that pregnancy is commonly cited as a reason for not attending school, and that girls who miss one or more school terms due to pregnancy are less likely to re-enroll than their counterparts who drop out for other reasons. However, girls who leave school due to pregnancy do not appear to be a selective group of sexually active girls with respect either to ability and aspirations or to background characteristics. This suggests that enabling girls to postpone family formation at least until after the completion of schooling could significantly improve the education trajectories of those who otherwise would have had to interrupt or abandon their studies.

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