Gender Gaps in Educational Attainment in Less Developed Countries

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Abstract

Conventional wisdom holds that gender gaps in schooling favoring males in developing countries generally are large, though probably declining. In this article we re-examine recent gender gaps in schooling in the developing world and come to a more nuanced characterization of their nature, which suggests that the developing countries are becoming more like the developed countries, with gender gaps that increasingly favor, rather than discriminate against, females. Using data from 38 countries with multiple Demographic and Health Surveys, we examine how the gender gaps in current school enrollment and grade completion emerge across the educational life course from age 6 to 18. We also examine how these age-specific measures have changed over time, comparing the periods 1990–99 and 2000–06. Our analyses indicate that among children who have ever attended school, girls younger than 16 years of age have equal or greater schooling progress than boys of the same age in all regions of the developing world.

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