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Comprehensive Child Marriage Research Library

Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: A Review of the Literature


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Parsons, Jennifer; Edmeades, Jeffrey; Kes, Aslihan; Petroni, Suzanne; Sexton, Maggie; Wodon, Quentin


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The Review of Faoth & International Affairs

Peer Reviewed


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Students Against Child Marriage's Object Summary:

As the title implies, Jennifer Parsons and her coauthors discuss the economic impacts of child marriage through a review of existing literature on the subject. They are quick to note the “substantial research” conducted over the late 200s and early 2010s concerning the factors contributing to child marriage and its consequences while acknowledging a comparably small understanding of the “economic impacts of child marriage” on not only the girls who marry, but also “their children, and their families” (p. 13).

While the literature review includes scholarship pertaining to child marriage throughout the world, with little to no focus on the United States, many of the authors’ findings may be safely assumed to apply to American child brides as well. Parsons and her coauthors conduct their literature review across five dimensions: participation and decision-making (p. 13-14), educational attainment (p. 14-15), labor force participation (p 15-16), violence (p. 16-17), and health (p. 17-18).

The limited household participation and decision-making of child brides are directly connected to greater gender inequities. As girls who are married early “often experience overlapping vulnerabilities—they are young, often poor, and undereducated,” the “resources and assets” they are thus able to contribute to their marital household are limited, only limiting their agency and self-determination even more (p. 13). Additional consequences of their minimized household participation extend to bodily autonomy and contraceptive use (p. 14). This extends into concerns of intergenerational trauma, as “only through her participation and voice in decision-making can a girl’s or woman’s aspirations for her children be realized” (p. 14).

Further connecting to Parson et al.’s second dimension, girls being out of school tend to have “little to no say in decisions about whether they should continue or return to school” (p. 13). When formal education and schooling cease, as is often the case, child brides “stop acquiring knowledge and skills that would carry them through life” (p. 14). This does not only apply to economic products of education but also the “social skills and networks” essential to creating support systems outside their own household (p. 15). Again creating intergenerational, “children of less well-educated mothers are less likely to be well nourished and immunized against childhood diseases, and more likely to die” (p. 15).

The impact of altered labor force participation on child brides is profound and extend beyond women and their families, but “at the aggregate level… may significantly reduce economic growth in communities or societies” (p. 15). Low labor force participation is related to the decreased employment opportunities of child brides, which in turn is a direct result of the lower educational attainment for child marriage survivors. The frequency of pregnancies among those who marry early, along with the medical complications of those pregnancies, similarly lead to withdrawl from the labor force (p. 16).

Lastly, Parson et al. contend that “child marriage itself can be considered a form of violence against girls” (p. 16). While this finding is visible throughout research on the subject, the authors connect “intimate partner violence (IPV)” to “reduced earnings and productivity, shifting investment in their households, and increased out-of-pocket costs” (p. 16). Like the previous dimensions, Parson et al. also suggest that “the effects of IPV can be felt across generations” (p. 16).

This paper reveals a number of troubling economic impacts of child marriage for not only girls who marry early, but additionally their children and communities as a whole (p. 18-19).

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