survey data representing 60 percent of the population of the developing world, 23 percent of young people ages 20-24 gave birth before age 18 (down from 30 percent 20 years ago).
As a result of declines in early marriage, there has been a slight rise in the percentage of births to young women that are premarital. The level of premarital childbearing varies substantially across regions: from 14 percent having a premarital birth by the age of 20 in Eastern and Southern Africa to less than 1 percent in Asia and the Middle East. While Eastern and Southern Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean have seen recent small increases in the rates of premarital childbearing, the rates in other regions appear very low, but measurement is more difficult given continuing reluctance to interview unmarried women in Asia.
Although there is plentiful evidence that early childbearing is correlated with various negative outcomes, rigorous research confirming a causal role for age at birth in producing these outcomes does not exist. Major global changes, such as increasing school enrollment during late adolescence, rising rates of labor force participation among young women, and rising HIV/AIDS prevalence among young women in Africa, are likely to have important implications for the transition to parenthood, but little is known about the implications of these trends for first parenthood.
Policies and programs designed to achieve positive and sustainable development and combat poverty confront both the opportunity and the challenge of promoting successful transitions to adulthood for a steadily growing population of young people living in developing countries. Substantial investments in the health and schooling of young people, if designed and targeted effectively, will position these young people to participate constructively in shaping their own and their countries’ futures.
The panel’s policy and program recommendations were derived from a careful sifting of the empirical evidence. They address areas that are potentially encompassed by the scope of the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals as well as others that are not within their current scope but are nonetheless of vital importance for young people. In the panel’s view, policies and programs, if they are to be effective, will need to be evidence-based, appropriate to the local context, and developed in cooperation with developing country governments and local communities.
The UN Millennium Development Goals, the international community’s unprecedented agreement on targets toward the elimination of extreme