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Educating Mothers, Saving Lives: Effects of Maternal Secondary Schooling on Child Mortality in Zimbabwe


Karen Grépin
Assistant Professor of Global Health Policy
New York University


Amanda Glassman
Director of Global Health Policy and Senior Fellow
Center for Global Development

Studies around the world have generally shown that more educated people live longer and healthier lives and give birth to fewer but healthier children. However, only a few of these studies have been successful in identifying the causal impact of education, and very few of these studies have been conducted in the developing world. Even fewer studies have attempted to investigate how education affects health.

Access to secondary schools expanded rapidly for black Zimbabweans after independence in 1980. Karen Grépin and co-author Prashant Bharadwaj use that change as a natural experiment to estimate the impact of increased maternal secondary education on child mortality. They find that children of more educated mothers are much more likely to survive. Furthermore, increased education leads to delayed age at marriage, sexual intercourse, and first birth, as well as better economic opportunities for women.

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