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Cross-Sectional Time Series Analysis of Associations between Education and Girl Child Marriage in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, 1991-2011



Girl education is believed to be the best means of reducing girl child marriage (marriage <18 years) globally. However, in South Asia, where the majority of girl child marriages occur, substantial improvements in girl education have not corresponded to equivalent reductions in child marriage. This study examines the levels of education associated with female age at marriage over the previous 20 years across four South Asian nations with high rates (>20%) of girl child marriage- Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.


Cross-sectional time series analyses were conducted on Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) from 1991 to 2011 in the four focal nations. Analyses were restricted to ever-married women aged 20-24 years. Multinomial logistic regression models were used to assess the effect of highest level of education received (none, primary, secondary or higher) on age at marriage (<14, 14-15, 16-17, 18 and older).


In Bangladesh and Pakistan, primary education was not protective against girl child marriage; in Nepal, it was protective against marriage at <14 years (AOR = 0.42) but not for older adolescents. Secondary education was protective across minor age at marriage categories in Bangladesh (<14 years AOR = 0.10; 14-15 years AOR = .25; 16-17 years AOR = 0.64) and Nepal (<14 years AOR = 0.21; 14-15 years AOR = 0.25; 16-17 years AOR = 0.57), but protective against marriage of only younger adolescents in Pakistan (<14 years AOR = 0.19; 14-15 years AOR = 0.23). In India, primary and secondary education were respectively protective across all age at marriage categories (<14 years AOR = 0.34, AOR = 0.05; 14-15 years AOR = 0.52, AOR = 0.20; 16-17 years AOR = 0.71, AOR = 0.48).


Primary education is likely insufficient to reduce girl child marriage in South Asia, outside of India. Secondary education may be a better protective strategy against this practice for the region, but may be less effective for prevention of marriage among older relative to younger adolescents.

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