Child Marriage and Economic Development

Child marriage has normally been seen as a human right issue. But a new study by the World Banks and the Center for Research on Women (CRW) suggest that child marriage is also an issue of economic development.  While child marriage does occur even in countries like the US, the greatest proportion occurs in poor countries. In Niger for example 77% of women between the ages of 18 to 22 were married before the age of 18. Sometimes the poorer the country, the more child marriage is likely to occur. Often there are laws banning child marriage, yet it still occurs.  Laws have been on the books in Bangladesh for example since a surprising 1929, but have been ineffective. There are many economic consequences to child marriage which cost the countries involved. Globally it’s been estimated at $500 billion, involving the costs of child mortality, malnutrition or the effect on growth and development.  By looking at the problem in economic terms, it may be that an incentive may be found for countries to address the problem with greater commitment. If girls were not married so young, they would be able to go to school and contribute to the economy so that the productivity of the country would increase. Another factor that would have economic consequences is that the more education girls can have the more they are likely to use birth control. Not only do they then have better control over their lives, population growth can also be controlled, and that is of much help to a country, particularly a poor one.

If the economic ramifications can be of use to motivate countries to resolve the issues associated with child marriage, then by all means, but it is still a human rights issue.