Cynthia B. Lloyd, Jere R. Behrman, Nelly P. Stromquist, and Barney Cohen
Adolescence is a critical period of human development that sets young people on trajectories that shape their future as adults. Fundamental decisions are made during adolescence relating to transitions out of school, into work, into sexual relations, into marriage, into parenting and, generally, into assuming adult roles in communities in which individuals spend their early adult years. Although these transitions onto various trajectories are not immutable, the transitions in adolescence condition considerably developments over the rest of people’s lives and, indeed, the context in which their children are born and raised.
Since the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, young people have been recognized as a critical target group for better health and other social policies and programs. In many countries, the risk of HIV/AIDS and adolescent pregnancy and childbearing are particular sources of social and policy concern, and many international, national, and nongovernment organizations are now focusing more attention on the problems of young people. Increasingly, programs to help young people are being undertaken using broad holistic approaches that incorporate elements of education, livelihood, and citizenship training. This international attention to the situation of young people has been further reinforced in more recent years by the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by the international community in 2000. The accomplishment of many of these goals, including the reduction in the incidence of extreme poverty, the achievement of universal primary school, gender equity and women’s empowerment, reductions in maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, and the promotion of youth employment, requires a policy emphasis on investments in young people.
This growing emphasis on young people in policy and programming arenas has drawn attention to gaps in our knowledge regarding the situation of adolescents in developing countries as well as to how various transitions to adulthood are changing in light of globalization. More young people than ever—more than 1.5 billion youth ages 10 to 24 in developing countries—are experiencing the transition to adulthood during a time of unprecedented global change. Responding to the need for more informed policy making, the National Academies convened a multidisciplinary expert group—the Panel on the Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries—to assess how transitions to adulthood are changing for young men and women in developing countries, and what the implications of those changes are for the design of programs that affect young people. Specifically, the panel was asked to:
document the situation and status of adolescents and young adults in developing countries;
ascertain the changes that are occurring in the nature, timing, sequencing, and interrelationships of the various transitions to adulthood in developing countries;
assess the knowledge base regarding the causes and consequences of these changes;
identify the implications of this knowledge for policy and program interventions affecting adolescent reproductive health; and
identify research priorities that are scientifically promising and relevant for integrating adolescent research and policy.
In answering these broad questions, the panel was forced to face several difficult theoretical and empirical questions. In part this was inevitable because of the enormity of the subject and the diversity of contexts and experiences of youth in many varied contexts. Where the existing literature was found to be deficient and data to answer particular questions were known to be available, the panel decided to commission a series of background papers to provide more focused treatment of certain issues and greater detail on which the panel report could build. The panel’s report entitled Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries contains its main findings, analyses, and conclusions. This companion volume contains revised versions of the best of these background papers that the panel commissioned along the way.
Because these studies were selected to fill unique gaps in the existing literature, they should not be taken to constitute a comprehensive collection of all potentially relevant topics related to transitions to adulthood in developing countries. In the panel report, many more such topics are indicated at the end of each chapter for which research is still needed. Nevertheless,
each paper reproduced here represents a useful scientific contribution in its own right. Collectively, the papers span a broad range of youth issues and cover a wide range of societies both geographically and culturally.
DOCUMENTING THE CHANGING CONTEXTS WITHIN WHICH YOUNG PEOPLE ARE TRANSITIONING TO ADULTHOOD
In Chapter 2, Jere Behrman and Piyali Sengupta describe the extent to which the aggregate contexts in which youth have been making transitions to adulthood in developing countries have been converging toward those in the developed economies. The study finds that the developing countries have tended to converge toward the characteristics of the developed countries in a number of important respects in recent decades. But there also has been significant divergence in some other respects. The tendency for convergence has been considerable for the available indicators of health, education, environment, transportation and communication, and gender differences, but somewhat less for some other indicators. Furthermore, though there has been a tendency for convergence for many aspects of the economy, the pattern is mixed for the important overall economic indicators of economic growth rates and per capita product.
In particular, two of the regions—Latin America and the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa—have diverged negatively with regard to economic growth rates, and only two of the regions—East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia—have been converging rather than diverging in terms of per capita real product. Though the majority of youth in the developing world live in the latter two regions, there is a significant minority who live in the other regions for which there has been not only divergence, but decreases in per capita real product in the last two decades. Considering all the indicators, East Asia and the Pacific generally has converged most toward developed economics and sub-Saharan Africa least. The other regions are in between, with Europe and Central Asia in several cases diverging from the developed economies, but converging toward the more developed of the developing regions.
Collectively, these results suggest that the dominant thrust has been toward a more integrated and more similar world in which youth are making transitions to adulthood. This implies many changes for current youth in comparison with previous generations—dependence much more on markets than on family enterprises for jobs, much more on formal schooling than on learning by working with parents and other relatives with regard to education; much more awareness of options and lifestyles from the broader world than just from the local community; longer life expectancies and less susceptibility to infectious diseases with the exception of HIV/AIDS; smaller gender gaps favoring males; and much more mobility
in a number of dimensions. But this major thrust should be qualified by some important divergences that have been documented in some regions and with respect to various indicators.
STUDIES ON THE DETERMINANTS AND PATTERNS OF EDUCATION
In Chapter 3, David Lam and Letícia Marteleto focus on the implications for the schooling of youth of trends in family size and in the size of birth cohorts in Brazil, the most populous country in Latin America. One of the important features of the Brazilian demographic transition, as in most other demographic transitions, is that family size and cohort size have moved in opposite directions during much of the transition. Declining fertility rates compete with population momentum to determine the size of birth cohorts, with the increasing numbers of childbearing-age women outpacing the declining fertility rates for many years of the transition. The size of birth cohorts continued growing in Brazil until around 1982, even though fertility rates and family size had been falling since the 1960s. The school-age population continued growing until the early 1990s, with the growth rate dropping sharply in the 1990s. Cohorts born after 1982 are the first cohorts in Brazil to experience both falling cohort size and falling family size relative to previous cohorts, a fact that may have important implications for school outcomes. The peak of Brazil’s school-age population coincides with the beginning of a period of rapid improvement in school enrollment and school attainment in Brazil, starting around 1990.
Lam and Marteleto’s results indicate that school enrollment is negatively affected by the growth rate of the population ages 7 to 14, with the most negative effects on older males from poorer households, suggesting that school crowding has the biggest impact on students who are closest to the margin of dropping out of school. Counterfactual simulations indicate that enrollment rates would have improved faster in the 1980s if cohort growth rates had not increased, and that enrollment rates were positively affected by the declining growth rates of the 1990s. The number of siblings ages 0 to 6 and 7 to 17 both also had significant negative effects on enrollment. The effect of the number of siblings ages 0 to 6 is much greater than the effect of the number of siblings ages 7 to 17, and is slightly more negative on girls than boys. Simulated counterfactuals suggest that declining family size was one of the factors contributing to the rising school enrollment rates of the 1990s. By far the most important explanatory factor in the analysis is parental schooling, with large positive effects of both mother’s and father’s schooling on children’s school enrollment. Taken in combination, the study results imply that changes in the growth rate of the school-age population, numbers of siblings, and parental education can
explain more than 60 percent of the observed increases in school enrollment between 1977 and 1999.
In contrast to the average for the whole developing world, youth in sub-Saharan Africa recently have been transitioning to adulthood in contexts that in some important respects have deteriorated rather than improved. More than 37 million adolescents ages 10 to 14 in sub-Saharan Africa will not even complete primary school. Hence, reducing the number of uneducated African youth is a primary objective of the Education for All (EFA) and the United Nations MDG programs. Achieving these goals will require resources and commitment not previously seen, as well as more effective tools for monitoring progress.
In Chapter 4, Paul Hewett and Cynthia Lloyd assess United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) two indicators for monitoring progress toward EFA, and conclude that UNESCO data may provide a potentially misleading picture of current progress. Not only are rates of enrollment significantly higher relative to attendance data from recent nationally representative household surveys, but gender parity ratios as estimated from UNESCO data suggest a greater remaining gap in attendance than do recent comparable household survey data. The authors argue that nationally representative household data provide a useful baseline from which to build. The United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) and the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), both of which collect information on the educational participation and attainment of household members, are collected in a large enough number of countries for cross-national and regional comparisons of educational progress. Even with the limited education data collected in household surveys such as DHS and MICS, there is much that can be learned about past trends and the current status of schooling in sub-Saharan Africa. The trends in primary schooling completion for sub-Saharan Africa implied by these data raise serious questions about the feasibility of achieving the EFA and MDGs in the foreseeable future. It is even possible some earlier gains could be lost, given recent declines in attendance rates among the youngest boys and the tapering off in attendance rates among the youngest cohort of girls in many countries. It would also appear that the gap between boys and girls is closing rapidly for the region as a whole. These trends in gender parity ratios are occurring despite huge variations in overall levels of educational attainment. Consequently, these findings raise doubts about the likelihood that EFA goals can be achieved with a strategy limited to emphasis on girls’ schooling. The largest remaining schooling gap is between the poorest and wealthiest households. This study gives new comparisons of the sizes of gender gaps and wealth gaps across most countries of sub-Saharan Africa using several widely accepted schooling indicators. With the gender gap closing in many cases at levels of educational
attainment that fall well short of universal primary schooling, new strategies will need to be devised to reach the poorest parents and their children.
STUDIES ON MARRIAGE
The next three chapters in the volume all deal with various aspects of the transition to marriage, often a sufficient but not a necessary condition for the transition to adulthood. Marriage during the teen years is often perceived to be particularly deleterious (as well as much more common) for women: schooling may be curtailed, autonomy limited—because young brides tend to marry older men—and sexual relations uninformed and perhaps even coercive or dangerous to women’s health. Furthermore, the terms and conditions of marriage, including whether or not marriages are arranged, age and education differences between spouses, financial exchanges at the time of marriage, and assets brought into marriage are all important factors in determining young women’s bargaining power, scope for action and choice, and life circumstances as adults.
In Chapter 5, Barbara Mensch, Susheela Singh, and John Casterline examine trends in the timing of first marriage among men and women in the developing world. The authors find that during the past 30 years, for most developing country regions substantial declines have occurred in the proportion of young men and women married; the exceptions are South America for men and women, and West and Middle Africa and South and Southeast Asia, for men only. Expansion of schooling for women has had some impact, but there is still a considerable fraction of the reduction in early marriage not explained by changes in education. Other factors that might account for some of the delay in marriage among women include the decline in arranged marriages, the deficit of available older men with increasing cohort size and the concomitant rise in the cost of dowries in South Asia, changes in laws about age of marriage, and a transformation in global norms about the desirability of early marriage of women. Increasing educational attainment of men is also believed to contribute to a delay, but no evidence of this is found for sub-Saharan Africa. In order to better understand the dynamics of union formation, surveys need to collect information on the social, cultural, and economic factors that affect life decisions among young people, including contextual factors that reflect the opportunity structures available. Analyses of such data will permit the development of a more nuanced picture of one of the key transitions in the pathway from adolescence to adulthood.
India, like China, accounts for more than a fifth of youth in the developing world. But within India, perhaps even more than in China, there is considerable variance in the experience of youth. In Chapter 6, Shireen Jejeebhoy and Shiva Halli examine changes in marriage patterns among
successive cohorts of women in rural Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, two culturally distinct social systems. The study finds that marriage age has been increasing moderately and at different paces in the two states. In Uttar Pradesh, among both Muslims and Hindus, early adolescent marriages (under age 15) have declined perceptibly by cohort, yet about two in three recently married women continue to marry by the time they are age 18. Among women in Tamil Nadu in contrast, changes are observed in both early and late adolescence, and the evidence suggests that among both Muslims and Hindus, marriage is increasingly being delayed beyond adolescence. The findings confirm that there are considerable similarities in factors associated with variance in age at marriage across these two cultural settings. Notably, even a primary education is associated with sharply increased marital age, and the association with education remains powerful in both cohorts and settings. Sociocultural context—as measured by religion and setting—suggests that compared to the Muslims of Uttar Pradesh, the Hindus of this state marry significantly earlier, while both Muslim and Hindu women from Tamil Nadu are significantly more likely to delay marriage. Also consistent is the suggestion that women marrying considerably older men (5 years or more) are significantly more likely to marry early than are other women—again there is no significant change in pattern over cohorts in this effect.
Attributes of marriage such as kin marriage, village endogamy and postmarital residence patterns, and spousal age differences continue to be shaped by region and gender systems. The experiences of recently married cohorts remain largely similar to those of older ones in each setting. There are, however, some conditions in which cohort differences have begun to emerge. These include greater autonomy among recently married women in determining the timing of marriage and choice of partner, and a narrowing of the schooling gap between wives and husbands—attributes far more clearly observed in Tamil Nadu than in Uttar Pradesh, and presumably suggestive of more egalitarian relationships among younger cohorts of Tamilian couples. On the other hand, a notable change experienced in Uttar Pradesh is a greater trend toward consumer goods among younger cohorts in dowries even though there is little clear evidence on trends in the total value of dowry per se.
These findings suggest that, by and large, sociocultural setting and individual and marriage-process-related factors are powerfully associated with marriage age and practices. What is not so clear, however, is whether or not these associations have shifted much over successive cohorts of women. Notably, findings suggest that while education is significantly related to enhanced marriage age, and while secondary education is associated with exercise of choice in marriage timing and partner, education is also related to increased dowry payments. Conversely, while premarital
economic activity is unrelated to marriage age or marriage-related decision making, it is significantly associated with reduced dowry payments. These kinds of findings argue for further explorations into the causal effects and tentatively suggest that strategies to delay marriage, enhance marriage-related decision making, and counter the practice of dowry may need to expand beyond education and employment. More comprehensive, direct, and context-specific strategies must simultaneously be sought—raising community awareness of the negative effects of early marriage and countering fears of allowing girls to remain single, providing for the acquisition of usable vocational and life skills, and enhancing young women’s real access to, and control over, economic resources and decision making relating to their own lives.
The final chapter in this section, by Agnes Quisumbing and Kelly Hallman, contributes to the literature on marriage patterns by analyzing data on husband’s and wife’s human and physical capital and conditions surrounding marriage based on comparable micro household data from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Mexico, the Philippines, and South Africa. Though the samples are relatively small and are not nationally representative, the study sites appear to be representative of living conditions for substantial subpopulations within each country and the data sets include recall information on assets brought into marriage, which is fairly unusual information.
In these six cases, age at marriage is increasing for husbands and wives, with the exception of Bangladesh and Ethiopia for men and Ethiopia for women. Schooling at marriage has also been increasing for both men and women, except for men in Bangladesh. There is no clear trend regarding land ownership at marriage, although grooms seem to be bringing more physical assets to marriage in four out of six countries. In the two countries where landholding information is not aggregated with total assets, husbands’ land ownership at marriage increases in one case (Philippines) and declines in the other (Mexico). Land ownership at marriage by women is decreasing through time in the Philippines, and remains constant, though very low (less than 1 percent of marriages) in Mexico. Asset values of husbands increase through time in four countries, declining only in Ethiopia, and remaining constant in the Philippines. Asset values of wives increase in two countries (Mexico and Guatemala), remain constant in the Philippines, and decline in Ethiopia and in Bangladesh. In the two countries for which there are data on marriage payments, trends have been in opposite directions: increasing for husbands and decreasing for wives in Bangladesh, and decreasing for both in South Africa.
Differences between husbands and wives, which may affect important intrahousehold allocations of resources and investments in children, have
changed in both directions. In four of the countries, age differences have decreased—a move toward increasing equality, given the possibility that greater seniority and experience may give husbands bargaining advantages over their wives. The two countries where differences in age at marriage have not decreased are South Africa and the Philippines, the two countries where women’s ages at marriage are the highest among the study countries. In half of the countries, husband-wife gaps in schooling attainment at marriage have also decreased—pointing to an equalization of human capital at marriage. The exceptions are Guatemala and the Philippines, where the difference in years of schooling has not changed over time, and Ethiopia, where the difference is increasing. The trend in Ethiopia contrasts with the results presented above for the reduction of gender gaps in schooling on the average in sub-Saharan Africa. The distribution of assets at marriage continues to favor husbands. In three of the countries, the husband-wife asset difference has not changed through time—and therefore continues to favor husbands—and has even increased in the two Latin American countries. The only country where the gap in assets at marriage has decreased is Ethiopia, probably due to the change in land policies as a result of collectivization. Finally, transfers at marriage are increasingly favoring men in Bangladesh, while the gap in transfers at marriage is decreasing in South Africa. In summary, the reduction of husband-wife gaps in age and schooling indicates potential improvements in the balance of power within the family, but asset ownership continues to favor husbands. It remains to be seen whether the reductions in gender gaps in age and human capital will offset the persistent gender gaps in asset ownership.
THE INTERRELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN VARIOUS TRANSITIONS
The next three chapters in the volume investigate multidimensional aspects of the various transitions to adulthood in different contexts.
In Chapter 8, Emily Hannum and Jihong Liu consider the case of adolescents in China, the most populous country in the world, which alone accounts for more than a fifth of youth currently in the developing world. China is also one of the countries in which economic development and transformation has been occurring most rapidly in recent decades. The chapter traces evidence about changes in adolescents’ pathways into adulthood in China over the past two decades of market reforms, focusing on schooling, work, family, and health. On average, the market reform period has benefited many aspects of adolescence. Schooling has increased, and adolescent labor has decreased. The average age at marriage is high, and rose in the 1990s, such that marriage is unlikely to compete directly with educational opportunities except at the very highest levels of education.
Low fertility rates suggest that women’s childrearing responsibilities may compete less with other opportunities in China than in many other developing countries.
The benefits of improved standards of living have been shared across social groups, but social and economic inequalities continue to shape the life course of Chinese youth. While wealthier urban youth are beginning to experience problems with overnutrition, some rural youth still face nutritional deprivation. Suicide rates are dramatically higher among rural youth and young adults, especially young rural women. Wealthier adolescents and those in urban areas are more likely to be in school than their poor rural counterparts, and thus enjoy significant advantages in a labor market that increasingly rewards credentials. The mark of rural poverty is clear in the elevated likelihood of rural youth participating in the labor force, in the high percentage of working youth employed in agriculture, and in the large-scale youth and young adult migration into urban settings. Finally, social changes in the reform period raise important concerns about behavioral health issues, especially sexual health and smoking.
In Chapter 9, Cynthia Lloyd and Monica Grant examine another very populous Asian country, Pakistan. The study characterizes Pakistan to be a country of contrasts caught in the conflicting tensions of global political and economic change on the one hand and severe financial duress due to the sluggish economy on the other. While recent decades have brought much social and economic change, many aspects of daily life remain remarkably unchanged. Therefore there are growing contradictions between traditional values and ways of life on the one hand and increasingly accepted global norms and external economic realities on the other. Young people are growing up in the midst of these cross currents, but to a large extent, traditional ways of life prevail. The study emphasizes the fundamental importance of schooling on transitions to adulthood in this context. Without schooling or with very limited schooling, children assume the work burdens of adults prematurely and are deprived of the opportunity for learning in an institutional setting outside the family. Those who attend school eventually do take up very gender-stereotyped roles; however, they do so with some delay, allowing them to enjoy a longer transition to adulthood. For both males and females, there is a large lag between the assumption of adult work roles and the assumption of adult family roles as marked by the transition to marriage. For young males, this is a lag between the timing of first paid work and marriage; for young females, it is the lag between the assumption of heavy domestic responsibilities and marriage and leaving home. The time use of young people varies from community to community according to the array of opportunities available. Current interventions appear, however, to reinforce gender role stereotypes. As the demographic transition continues to progress, family sizes become smaller,
and women’s time becomes more flexible, there should be opportunities for more transformative interventions to make a difference in the lives of youth, particularly young females.
In Chapter 10, Barthélémy Kuate-Defo builds from the conceptual framework developed for the Panel on Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries by formulating and estimating multilevel models of fixed and random influences of competing factors on various transitional events, which are hypothesized to be shaped by the hierarchically clustered contexts in which the individuals’ lives are embedded. The author presents the logic and assumptions of multilevel modeling as well as its data requirements, and uses data from Cameroon to illustrate the features of this methodology and to test several assumptions inherent in the macro-micro propositions articulated in the panel’s theoretical framework.
By situating the estimated influences on transitions to adulthood within a multilevel framework, this study allows for a more rigorous investigation of the robustness of fixed and random effects at the individual, community, and province levels than conventional statistical methods. The chapter separates the net influences of individual attributes from the fixed and random context-dependent effects, documents the significance of both the fixed and the random effects of the community and the province context, net of the fixed and random effects of individual- and household-level covariates, and assesses their differential implications for young males versus young females given their socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds.
The study finds significant multilevel influences on young people’s successful transitions to adulthood including socioeconomic status, ethnic affiliation, community and regional contexts in Cameroon, and these influences operate differently by gender. Furthermore, the estimated parameters suggest that there may be more variation across communities and provinces in the likelihood of some transitional events than standard single-level analyses would have implied. Finally, the study demonstrates the significance of influential unmeasured variables affecting the various transitions of young people during their life course, independently of other covariates. A number of these unobserved influences may be unmeasurable in conventional methods of inquiry and often require a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches to study.
In the final chapter in the volume, James Knowles and Jere Behrman argue that better policy choices related to youth would be made if policy makers and analysts were better informed by good estimates of the rates of return or benefit-to-cost ratios for alternative policy options. However, it is
more difficult to make such estimates for possible policy interventions related to youth than for most other interventions because of the multiple impacts of such interventions (increased by the multiple transitions through which youth are passing) that may last over decades—in addition to the usual difficulties of identifying policy impacts as opposed to associations and in pinning down the true resource costs (as opposed to governmental budgetary costs) of various policies. Consequently, there are relatively few good available estimates of the rates of return to alternative policies affecting youth in developing countries. The study combines information from different sources to provide new estimates of such returns, which in some cases appear to be quite substantial, particularly related to schooling. Thus, the chapter elaborates on a procedure for thinking about and evaluating the relative merits of different policy interventions related to youth in diverse contexts throughout the developing world.
The studies in this volume served as important inputs in the National Academies report on the transitions to adulthood in developing countries. They provide (1) new descriptions of patterns and associations between various transitions to adulthood both on a comparative level across a numbers of countries and for some particular countries that are of considerable interest in themselves, (2) methods for analyzing important aspects of those transitions and how policies might affect them, (3) illustrations of how existing data and new data enhance our understanding beyond that in the previous literature, and (4) suggestions of important data and analyses needed for further understanding. They both complement the report of the Panel on Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries and provide useful contributions in their own right. Our hope is that these studies will be useful to those charged with making and implementing public policy as well as scholars from different disciplines and leaders of civil society organizations wishing to build on the panel’s foundation.