IMF Working Paper Measures Economic Impact of Child Marriage

25 March 2020
Research Innovation

Alice Eckstein  | Project Director - Delta 8.7

In February 2020, an International Monetary Fund Working Paper prepared by Pritha Mitra, Eric M. Pondi Endengle, Malika Pant and Luiz F. Almeida examined the relationship between child marriage and economic growth in emerging and developing countries (EMDCs). The paper, Does Child Marriage Matter for Growth, used a simultaneous equations model to analyse the relationship between child marriage and economic growth, reaching the conclusion that long-term annual GDP in EMDCs would increase by 1.05 per cent with the eradication of child marriage, a promising result for development and policy actors seeking to identify measures for growth.


Past studies have examined the adverse social and economic consequences of child marriage. A 2017 study illustrated the linkages between child marriage and negative economic impacts such as poverty and inequality. Other studies had discovered that the reduction of child marriage would result in national savings and an increase of family earnings in EMDCs. What previous research had not yet done, however, was quantify the impact of child marriage on economic growth.

The researchers sourced data from the IMF’s World Economic Outlooks (per capita GDP growth rates for ultimately 76 countries with existing data on child marriage). A human capital index served as a proxy for education, and life expectancy data measured health. Child marriage was defined for the purpose of this paper as the percentage of women aged 20-24 years who first married or were in a union before they were 18. The methodologies employed for this research assumed from the results of past studies that child marriage is correlated with conventional growth determinants. A basic growth equation showed that the impact of child marriage on growth was negative and significant.

To develop a more nuanced understanding of the interdependence between child marriage, health, education and economic growth, the researchers applied a simultaneous equations model. The results pointed to several conclusions. First, the results showed that the reduction of child marriage is linked to economic growth in EMDCs; if child marriage were ended immediately, EMDCs could expect an annual per capita growth in GDP of 1.05 per cent. The work also showed positive intergenerational effects of reducing child marriage. One point for development and policy actors to note is the finding that education has a substantial, if indirect, impact on growth through its reduction of child marriage—actually proving to be a more significant factor than increased health. The authors recommended that education policy and budgets place a greater emphasis on reducing child marriage as a result of these findings.

The authors noted areas for further research in this area, suggesting that more insights on causality could be discovered through a micro-analysis based on randomized experimentation, and that the analysis might be enriched by higher frequency and more granular data. The conclusions, however, already point to promising areas for policy work: to prioritize ending child marriage, and to promote education and social assistance toward education access in these efforts.

Alice Eckstein is the Delta 8.7 Programme Manager.

This article has been prepared by Alice Eckstein as a contribution to Delta 8.7. As provided for in the Terms and Conditions of Use of Delta 8.7, the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of UNU or its partners.

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