Three empirical essays on child marriage, changing social norms, and women's life outcomes
Chapter 1: Child Marriage and Women’s Educational Attainment: Evidence from a Policy Experiment in Ethiopia
In 2000, the Ethiopian government revised the 1960 Family Code-FC. According to the 1960 FC, the legal minimum age for marriage was 15. However, the Revised FC increased to 18 years. Article 7 sub-article 1 of Revised FC stated that neither a man nor a woman who has not attained the full age of eighteen years shall conclude a marriage. As Ethiopia is a federal country established with 10 regions and 2 city administrations, there were geographic and time variations in adopting the Revised FC. Having these variations, this study seeks to analyze the impact of the Revised FC on age at marriage and women’s educational attainment, as well as the impact of early marriage on women’s educational attainment in Ethiopia. The key data source for this study is the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (DHS). According to the Generalized Difference-in-Differences with multiple groups and time periods estimation results, adoption of the Revised Family Code (RFC) increases the age at marriage by 0.16 years and years of attained education by 0.12 years for treated observations relative to controlled observation assuming ceteris paribus. The instrumental variable (IV) estimate reveals that as age at marriage increases by 1 year, years of educational attainment increase by 0.65 years. Building on the results, it is highly recommendable for the Ethiopian government to enforce effective implementation of the policy all over the country, assign human and financial resources, and design an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism.
Chapter 2: Evaluating the Long-run Impact of adopting Revised Family Code on Women’s Life Outcomes
Currently, there are coordinated efforts by national and international development agencies to tackle the problem of early marriage. In 2000, the Ethiopian government by revising the 1960’s Family Code, extended the minimum legal age for marriage from 15 to 18 years. Having this exogenous policy intervention, this study aimed to evaluate the long-run impact of adopting the Revised Family Code (RFC) on women’s life outcomes as well as estimate the impact of child marriage and age at marriage on women’s life outcomes. The major source of the data is Ethiopia’s Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data. To achieve these objectives the author runs Generalized Difference-in-differences (DID) with multiple groups and time periods, and Two Stages Least Squares (2SLS) estimation techniques. The study shows that the adoption of RFC significantly increased women’s life outcomes (wealth index (2%), work on a paid job (2%), and asset ownership (0.2%)), ceteris paribus. On average, as age at marriage increased by one year, the probability of wealth index significantly increased by (0.07), work on a paid job (0.07), and asset ownership (0.007), ceteris paribus. The findings of the study show that the high prevalence of child marriage significantly decreases the long-run women’s life outcomes. Thus, the researcher recommends for all responsible bodies to exhort the maximum possible effort for the effective implementation of the Revised Family Code (RFC).
Chapter 3: Changing Social Norms on Child Marriage through a Legislative Change: A case study of the Revised Family Code enforcement in Ethiopia
The Ethiopian Government took a major step to end the practice of child marriage in 2000 with the revision of the old 1960 Family Code. The revision pulled up the minimum legal age for marriage from 15 to 18 and made the practice of child marriage punishable in the criminal code for the first time. Revising the Family Code, however, was not going to end the practice by itself. The purpose of this case study is to find out hurdles that had to be addressed and overcome, and supplementary policies that were adopted to help end the practice of child marriage. The study identifies a long list of barriers to the effective implementation of the Revised Family Code including the existence of harmful social norms and practices, capacity gaps in the legal system, and limitations in access to media in large parts of the country. To overcome these and other “delivery challenges”, the leaders of the government and the civil society engaged the citizens and community leaders in public awareness campaigns, developed programs to empower women and children in local communities, and improved the judicial system, among other things. These interventions led to changes in social norms and public attitudes regarding child marriage, and more importantly, to a substantial reduction in child marriage throughout the country.
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