The High Cost of Education Inequality Worldwide, Originally Published in Ms. Magazine July 19, 2018

Original publication can be viewed here.


A new study by the World Bank measures the economic costs to nations which don’t educate girls—and the numbers are staggering. According to the report “Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls,” countries that limit education for girls lose approximately $15 trillion to $30 trillion in lifetime productivity and earnings.

Only 77 percent of girls globally complete secondary education, and their schooling could be the key to economic prosperity for their communities. The World Bank found that any more than 12 years of education for girls can counter substantial increases in a nation’s general poverty. According to their findings, girls who graduate from secondary school earn almost twice as much as those with no education. Their education also benefits society at-large greatly—it leads directly to ending child marriage, reduced fertility rates, increased knowledge of STDs, reduced risk of domestic violence, reduced mortality and malnutrition rates for children and increased access to institutions and women’s ability to navigate them.

These findings may feel like common sense, but by creating a statistical and economically-grounded case for girls’ education, the World Bank is bolstering the efforts of feminists worldwide pushing for the same.

“More needs to be done to improve educational opportunities for girls, as well as learning while in school,” the organization writes in the report. “To make the case for such investments, given data constraints, the focus of this study is on the potential impacts and cost of low educational attainment for girls as opposed to lack of learning. The goal is that these associations can illustrate the wide ranging potential impacts and cost of not educating girls, and in this way foster greater policy mobilization towards ensuring that all girls complete secondary school and acquire the foundational skills needed to thrive in the labor market and live more fulfilling lives.”

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