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Working Paper 281 - Early Childbearing, School Attainment and Cognitive Skills


Female secondary school attendance has recently increased in sub-Saharan Africa, and so has the risk of becoming pregnant while attending school. Using panel data that capture the transition from adolescence to adulthood in Madagascar, we analyze the impact of teenage pregnancy on young women’s human capital. Early childbearing increases the likelihood of dropping out of school by 42 percent and decreases the chances of completing secondary school by 44 percent. This pregnancyrelated school dropout is associated with a reduction of 1.1 standard deviations in math and French test scores. Delaying the first birth by a year increases the probability of current enrollment by 5 percent and test scores by 0.2 standard deviations. We instrument early pregnancy with the young woman’s community-level access, and her exposure to condoms since age 15 after controlling for prefertility socioeconomic conditions. Our results are robust to different specifications that address potential endogeneity of program placement and instrument validity.

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