New Findings Demonstrate the Economic Costs of Child Marriage

Article Date

20 November 2015

Article Author

Ibadet Reller

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Yesterday, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the World Bank released preliminary findings from a joint groundbreaking project they are leading to create an understanding of the economic costs of child marriage.

“With the recent adoption of the 2030 Agenda, which includes a target to end child marriage in the next 15 years – now more than ever we need to invest in effective and evidence-based solutions to end this harmful practice,” said Suzanne Petroni, senior director, gender, population and development who is leading ICRW’s efforts on this project. “Demonstrating the substantial economic costs associated with child marriage can help to make the case for further investments to eliminate the practice,” she added.

In the recent years, the evidence base on the devastating costs of child marriage has grown significantly. Yet, a critical barrier to advancing evidence-based solutions to eradicate this harmful practice has been a lack of rigorous data on its economic impacts, including: opportunity and financial costs, costs for health care systems, lost earnings, lower growth potential, and the perpetuation of poverty. Through this project, ICRW and the World Bank seek to address this challenge. Involving the most extensive data collection and analysis ever undertaken, the project aims to catalyze evidence-based action to prevent child marriage.

The initial findings show that, in addition to the harmful effects on girl’s health, education, rights, and wellbeing – the economic impacts of child marriage from the individual to the national levels are very significant. The study found that child marriage has significant impacts on fertility, as girls who marry early have more children compared to those who marry after the age of 18. Higher fertility contribute to economic costs for the household, and to population growth at the national level. In Niger, eliminating child marriage would lead to a reduction in population growth by 2030 of two million people – which could translate into substantial savings for the national economy, and particularly benefit those living in poverty.

The study also shows that child marriage impacts education. For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa, each year of early marriage reduces the probability of secondary school completion by about four percentage points – and the impact is likely to be far greater in South Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, researchers find. This then results in substantial earnings losses, as lack of education directly impacts women’s labor force participation and earnings.

One of the most the most powerful findings is a look at the combined effects for Niger, a poor country that has the highest child marriage rate in the world. The study found that eliminating child marriage in Niger could lead to savings at least $25 billion between 2014 and 2030.

World Bank Group Vice President of Human Development Keith Hansen kicked off yesterday’s launch event before turning it over to Quentin Wodon, lead economist at the World Bank and co-director on this project, who presented the initial findings. The event also included a panel discussion moderated by Claudia Costin, senior director of education at the World Bank Group, featuring: Suzanne Petroni, Daniel Perlman, research medical anthropologist, Bixby Center, University of California, Berkeley, and Olusoji Adeyi, director, Health-Nutrition-Population, World Bank Group.

The event concluded with a call to action to invest in eradicating child marriage. “First and foremost, child marriage is a gross violation of girls’ human rights. We must put an end to this practice and value girls as important members of society,” said Petroni. “This study strengthens the case by providing evidence on the economic costs of this harmful practice to the global community. We are calling on global leaders—particularly finance ministries and donors—to invest in ending this human rights abuse as not only the right thing to do, but also a strategic investment in the current and future economic and human development of nations,” added Petroni.

For more information on the project this project still underway, visit A recording of the event is available here.