UNFPAState of World Population 2002
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(Not for release before 3 December 2002)

Multiple Dimensions of Poverty
Macroeconomics, Poverty, Population and Development
Poverty and Gender
Poor Health and Poverty
HIV/AIDS and Poverty
Poverty and Education
Population, Poverty and Global Development Goals: The Way Ahead

Poverty and Education

Investments in education bring substantial returns. Female education, apart from empowering the woman herself and widening her choices, is particularly cost-effective because benefits pass on to her children. Educated women value education and are more likely to send their children to school.

Although overall access to basic education has risen substantially over the last decade in many developing countries, the poor are still less likely to attend school. In many countries, most children from the poorest households have no schooling. A recent study of 35 countries in West and Central Africa as well as in South Asia showed that in 10 countries, one half or more 15-19 year olds from poor house-holds never completed grade one.

Education patterns among the poor differ distinctly by region. In South Asia and West and Central Africa, a large minority of poor children never enrol in school. In Latin America, in contrast, virtually all children complete the first grade, but subsequent dropout rates are high. In Brazil, for example, 92 per cent of 15 to 19 year olds from poor households complete first grade, but only one half complete grade five.

In almost all countries, children aged 6-14 from the wealthiest 20 per cent of households are substantially more likely to be enrolled in school than children from the poorest 40 per cent of households.

The evidence from a range of developing countries suggests that a larger percentage of public spending on education goes to government actions that benefit the wealthy. Many countries would reach the goal of universal primary education just by raising enrolment among the poor.

While the “gender gap” in education has narrowed over the last decade, their relative disadvantage still deprives girls of secondary education in most of South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and several other developing regions. About 31 per cent of women were without any formal education in 2000, compared to 18 per cent of men.

Investing in education is critical for the future.

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