Photo credit: Smita Sharma | Human Rights Watch
More than 50% of girls from the poorest families in the developing world, married as children
3X- Girls from poor families are more than three times more likely to marry before 18 as girls from wealthier families
Poverty is one of the main drivers of child marriage
Child brides are more likely to be poor and to remain poor. Where poverty is acute, giving a daughter in marriage allows parents to reduce family expenses by ensuring they have one less person to feed, clothe and educate. In communities where economic transactions are integral to the marriage process, a dowry or ‘bride price’ is often welcome income for poor families. In some contexts families marry their daughters at a younger age to avoid more expensive dowry payments which the marriage of older girls often demands.
Child marriage traps girls and their families in a cycle of poverty
Girls who marry young are less likely to receive the education they need to live a healthy and empowered life. Without an education, they are less able to earn a safe and adequate income that would lift themselves and their families out of poverty. In many communities, economic opportunities are severely limited, especially for girls and women, meaning families often see little value in educating their daughters and instead marry them off to fulfil the role of a wife and mother.
Already isolated from educational and economic opportunities, child brides often experience a high burden of unpaid work in the home, cleaning, cooking and caring for their husbands, in-laws and children.
This cycle of poverty does not have to be inevitable
If a girl does not marry early and stays in school, she is likely to be healthier and wealthier – and to reinvest her income into her family. An extra year of primary education for girls boost their future earnings by 15%, a figure that only increases with the level of education.
Strategies to end child marriage and boost economic growth
Contexts where girls and women are valued and productive members of society have lower rates of child marriage. Keeping girls in school and building their life and livelihood skills can not only reduce child marriage, but also increase the economic productivity of married girls.
Here are some ways to simultaneously address child marriage and boost economic growth:
- Provide families with financial incentives to keep girls in school and not marry them
- Allow girls to make the transition from primary to secondary school so they have the potential to earn a safe and adequate income later on in life
- Teach girls how to be financially literate for example, how to be financially savvy, entrepreneurial, budget and save
- Target girls at risk of child marriage and already married adolescent in youth workforce development programmes
For more strategies, read our brief: “Taking action to address child marriage: the role of different sector. Brief 4. Economic growth and workforce development”.
Related Sustainable Development Goals
- Glinski, Allison M., Magnolia Sexton, and Lis Meyers. 2015. Washington, DC: The Child, Early, and Forced Marriage Resource Guide Task Order, Banyan Global.
- UNFPA, Marrying Too Young: End Child Marriage, 2013.
The cycle of poverty is not inevitable
- Psacharopoulos, G., & Patrinos, H.A. (2002). Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update. Washington, DC: World Bank cited in Glinski, Allison M., Magnolia Sexton, and Lis Meyers. 2015. Washington, DC: The Child, Early, and Forced Marriage Resource Guide Task Order, Banyan Global.