Global trends in population, health, urbanization, and education have all contributed positively to the growth in the demand for schooling. In most parts of the developing world today, young people live within reasonable proximity of a primary school—a notable achievement given the rapid growth in the school-age population. The results of recent internationally comparable standardized tests, however, raise serious concerns about how much students are actually learning in school—and therefore about school quality. Poor school quality and poverty remain major factors limiting enrollments, encouraging dropout, and compromising learning outcomes.


The health of young people in developing countries is improving. Young people are entering the transition to adulthood healthier and with improved chances of surviving to old age. And continued reductions in mortality seem likely, with the major exception of countries strongly affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

HIV/AIDS is now the leading cause of death among young people in sub-Saharan Africa. In other regions, it is among the least significant causes of death; instead, noncommunicable diseases predominate as well as injuries for men. Nevertheless, given the much higher mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world, HIV/AIDS is now the leading cause of death for women ages 15-29 for the world as a whole and one of the leading causes of death for men in the same age group. Moreover, given the much larger population of young people in Asia, an increase in the epidemic there, which is projected by many, would mean that the numbers of young people affected would increase substantially.

Mortality and morbidity related to pregnancy and childbirth (particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where levels of early childbearing remain high) and as a direct consequence of unsafe abortion across all developing regions remain among the most significant risks to young women’s health. Although young women appear less likely than older women to seek abortion, they are more likely to have the abortion later in the pregnancy and to choose an unsafe provider, thus putting them at greater risk.

Behaviors that young people adopt at this age have critical implications for their future health and mortality. In particular, unprotected sex is one of the riskiest behaviors that young people can undertake, particularly in settings in which HIV/AIDS is widespread. Evidence from Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa suggest that contraceptive use rates are increasing among sexually active young women, especially unmarried ones. Condom use, however, remains relatively low but is increasing rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as Eastern and Southern Africa. Poverty

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