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Examining the education gap among boys and girls in low- and mid-income countries

While the education gap is virtually nil in the United States, fewer girls in developing countries finish high school. And this results in poor health and economic outcomes for themselves, their own children, and the countries in which they live.

One of Stanford Health Policy’s physician-economists took a deep look at why that is and how to solve the gender gap that perpetuates a vicious cycle of inequality worldwide.

Marcella Alsan, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford and SHP core faculty member, reveals in this Pediatrics study that one tradition dragging down adolescent girls in these poorer countries is the need for them to stay at home and take care of their little brother or sister when they’re sick.

“The gender gap in adolescent school attendance increased by around 50 percent when young children in the household became ill," the authors wrote.

According to The World Bank, in Sub-Saharan and South Asia, boys are 1.5 times more likely to complete secondary education than girls. Yet the potential gains from more women in the global workforce over the next decade are estimated at $12 trillion.

“There are so many advantages to girls staying in school,” Alsan told me in an interview. “The longer they’re in school, the less likely they are to become young mothers or contract HIV. And the more educated the mother, their own children have better chances of survival.”

I explained more in this recent story.

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

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