Girls' Education

Fei Yuan and I recently authored a paper: "What We Learn about Girls’ Education from Interventions that Do Not Focus on Girls." Here is the abstract:

Despite dramatic global gains in access to education, 130 million girls of school age remain out of school. Among those who do enter, too many do not gain the essential skills to succeed after they complete their schooling. Previous efforts to synthesize evidence on how to improve educational outcomes for girls have tended to focus on interventions that are principally targeted to girls, such as girls' latrines or girls' scholarships. But if general, non-targeted interventions -- those that benefit both girls and boys -- significantly improve girls' education, then focusing only on girl-targeted interventions may miss some of the best investments for improving educational opportunities for girls in absolute terms. This review brings together evidence from 270 educational interventions from 177 studies in 54 low- and middle-income countries and identifies their impacts on girls, regardless of whether the interventions specifically target girls. The review finds that to improve access and learning, general interventions deliver gains for girls that are comparable to girl-targeted interventions. At the same time, many more general interventions have been tested, providing a broader menu of options for policy makers. General interventions have similar impacts for girls as for boys. Many of the most effective interventions to improve access for girls are household-based (such as cash transfer programs), and many of the most effective interventions to improve learning for girls involve improving the pedagogy of teachers. Girl-targeted interventions may make the most sense when addressing constraints that are unique to girls.

The paper is available as CGD Working Paper 513 and World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 8944, and we have written a summary blog post on the CGD blog and a summary piece at Quartz.

Rose and Yorke authored a critique of an earlier version of the paper: General versus Girl-Targeted Interventions: A False Dichotomy? A response to Evans and Yuan. We have improved our paper as a result of their critique and are grateful for their thoughtful engagement. That said, we do not agree with all of their conclusions, and we have prepared a response to their critique, which you can download below.