Women’s Schooling in Asia and Africa

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  • 1 Graduate School of Education and Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, ma

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This article surveys the demographic research of the past 35 years concerning the impact of women’s school attainment on mortality, fertility and health practices. The empirical findings are remarkably consistent across Asia, Africa and Latin America, and in the 20th and 21st centuries, with evident associations between female primary and secondary school attainment and child mortality in the Gakidou et al. () study of 175 countries. Associations with fertility and health practices are also consistent. What are the processes that account for these associations? I propose, based on a study assessing maternal literacy in four diverse countries (Mexico, Nepal, Venezuela and Zambia), that literacy skills and teacher-pupil interaction in the classroom are central to the processes by which school experience changes maternal behavior in developing countries. Basu and Stephenson () arrived at similar conclusions independently from their analysis of the 1992/93 Indian National Family Health Survey, but final conclusions concerning the causal processes involved are not possible without longitudinal research.

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