In 1994 the government of Bangladesh initiated a scholarship scheme throughout the country for girls enrolled in grades 6 and 9, which was later extended to girls in grades 7 and 8. Provided the girl attends school 65 percent of the time and maintains a certain grade point average, her school is given a certain allotment and she is given a monthly stipend ranging from the equivalent of 1 to 2 U.S. dollars. Parents of the girls are required to sign an agreement guaranteeing that their daughters will not marry before the age of 18. While an assessment of the effect of this program on secondary school enrollment reveals that girls’ school attendance increased (Khandker, Pitts, and Fuwa, 2003), there has not been a rigorous analysis of the effect on age at marriage. However, data collected in villages prior to the program’s implementation and then again in 1995, 1996, and 2000 indicate, somewhat unexpectedly, little change in the percentage of adolescent girls who marry (Amin and Arends-Kuenning, 2001; Arends-Kuenning and Amin, 2000).

As noted above, we are unaware of any interventions in sub-Saharan Africa, where marriage during the teenage years is also widespread, to directly influence the timing of marriage. However, there are experimental programs designed to improve the status of adolescent girls that, if successful, are likely to delay marriage. The Milles Jeunes Filles project in Burkina Faso, a governmental effort begun in 1994 to educate adolescent girls in cultivation techniques, is a two-year residential program that enrolls 1,000 girls ages 14-18 per year. In addition to learning how to grow crops, girls are given training in literacy, reproductive health, dressmaking, and financial management. At the end of the two-year program, each participant is given a small sum of money to return to her home community and purchase supplies. While the program does not have an explicit goal to raise the age of marriage of girls, one of the desired outcomes is a delay in marriage and an increase in the ability of girls to select their own husbands (Saloucou, Brady, and Chong, forthcoming).


Key Findings

Compared with previous generations, a smaller proportion of young women and men are married in most regions of the developing world. The regions that are clear exceptions to this trend are South America for men and women, and South-central and South-eastern Asia for men. Men still marry at older ages than women. While only one-third of men in the developing world are married by ages 20-24, nearly two-thirds of women are married

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