May 21, 2018
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Quality of education is a key indicator of the development of a country. Access to schooling and literacy rates show the level of educated and informed citizens a country has. Ethopia had a 49% literacy rate in 2015, however youth literacy rates at the same year were much higher, at 69,5%.

If we separate this data by gender, adult literacy for women is set at 41.1%, whilst for young women is at 67.8%. Both men and women now attend more school and are more literate, and these have effects on family compositions and lifestyle.

Luke Chicoine, Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics at Bates College, studies in his paper Free Primary Education and Fertility: Evidence from Ethiopia the effects that removing school fees and introducing mother tongue education programs in the1990s has had in fertility and family choices.

“As students went to school more they had higher rates of literacy and were more likely to know about better health care options”, said Chicoine during his presentation on the 21st of May at the last of the Navarra Center for International Development Weekly Seminar of the academic year. “For Ethiopian women I find that as they went to school longer they had fewer children”, he added.

The removal of school fees did not only increase enrolment, but also learning and helped transform family structures. As women studied, they became more likely to enter the labour force working in areas outside subsistence agriculture, and as a consequence they had less time to take care of their children, which ended in a demand drop for kids.

Chicoine acknowledged that this process didn’t mean that women imposed this new family. “They also married men which were more educated, more productive and also demanded smaller families”.  However, his investigation finds no evidence that this increase in education meant women had more control over any of the joint household decisions. “It is this change for demand in family size that led to reduction in fertility, not change in empowerment in the household”, he concluded.