Till death do us part : explaining the roots of child marriage
Thesis (M.P.P.)--Georgetown University, 2011.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. Marriage should be one of the happiest moments in a woman's life, and yet for millions of young girls worldwide it represents the beginning of a lifetime of oppression, hardship, and isolation. "Child Marriage," or marriage before the age of 18, is a serious development and humanitarian issue with broad-reaching ramifications throughout societies. While the issue has received increasing attention from the international community over the last 15 years, the existing literature largely relies upon household-level data for empirical analysis. Conversely, this paper will use macro-level data from international organizations such as the World Bank, UNICEF, Polity IV Project, and the World Christian Database from the time period of 1986-2006 to determine whether the drivers of child marriage identified by previous studies exist at the aggregate level. In order to test the hypothesis that there are cross-national determinants of child marriage rates, the paper uses multiple ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models and controls for potential omitted variables. The paper finds that female education, specifically enrollment in secondary school, has a strongly significant, negative relationship with child marriage rates. This finding has important policy implications as increasing female secondary enrollment positively affects a number of crucial development indicators in addition to child marriage rates. Moreover, this study suggests that democratization is not necessarily an effective way to combat child marriage in developing countries, as more democratic nations are shown to have higher child marriage rates. Among its policy prescriptions, this paper presents a female empowerment framework to enhance education and reduce incidences of child marriage that consists of raising awareness, improving institutions, and eventually garnering social acceptance.
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