Chapter 17 Child/Early Marriage

According to UNICEF (2005), child Marriage refers to formal marriages and informal unions of a girl or boy before the age of 18. Their report finds that many girls aged between 15 and 19 have been forced to get married as child brides due to poverty and social norms, leading many of them to face health hazards, inadequate provision of education and even domestic violence.

Child marriage mostly occurs among girls in South Asia. According to the findings from UNICEF, South Asia accounts for half of global child marriage. India and Bangladesh belong to top 10 countries with the highest rate of child marriage, where almost half of all women aged 20-24 years reported being married before the age of 18. Bangladesh has the highest rate of child brides under 15 and the second highest rate of child marriage globally. About 74 percent of women currently aged 20-49 in the country were married before they turned 18 (UNICEF 2005).

In delaying or preventing child marriage, expanding quality education among girls has been widely emphasized among practitioners and researchers (Brown 2012; Ijeoma, Uwakwe, and Paul 2013; Parsons et al. 2015). They argue that higher education helps girls participate in labor markets to earn income and empowers them to claim their rights in a society, reducing the chance of getting married early. In this way, more educated girls will be less likely to be in the danger of child or early marriage.

This note, however, provides preliminary evidence for a new aspect on how education can prevent child/early marriage by exploring the incidence of child marriages by education level and gender of adult members. That is, many child marriages are the results of parents’ or adult members’ decisions. Based on the comparison, we examined whether education “enlightens” people’s gender perspective and how this works differently by gender.

The finding was produced according to the following steps. We constructed an indicator for early marriage based on demographic variables including marital status, age, and relationship to head. After adding married women under age 18, we found women aged between 20 and 24 with children aged 1 or older. The Stata code below allows to create the early marriage indicator based on the harmonized variables mentioned above. Then we tabulated the share of households with girls married early by gender and highest level of education among adult household members. This is to prevent the inclusion of current early marriage. Comparing the distribution of the share of education attainment among female and male adults can provide evidence on how education can differently affect the reduction in child marriage by gender.

* Example: Creating a variable for early/child marriage

* Open dataset
datalibweb, country(`country') year(`year') type(SARMD) surveyid(`surveyid') clear 

* Generate child marriage
gen earlym=(age<18 & male==0 & marital!=2 & marital!=.)
replace earlym=. if (marital==.)

gen child=age if (relationharm == 3)
bys countrycode year idh: egen childage=max(child)
gen earlym_all=((age==20&male==0&relationharm<3&childage>1)|    ///
                (age==21&male==0&relationharm<3&childage>2)|    ///
                (age==23&male==0&relationharm<3&childage>3)|    ///
                (age==24&male==0&relationharm<3&childage>4))|   ///
Early Marriage and Education Level of Household Members

Figure 17.1: Early Marriage and Education Level of Household Members

The findings from SARMD provide evidence that having educated women in a family can effectively prevent early marriage among girls in their households. Figure 17.1shows that highest education level among female members is more negatively associated with the incidence of child marriage than the one among male members. If a household has a female member who completed secondary school, the incidence of child marriage drastically falls compared to households with uneducated women. When male household members are considered, education attainment and the share of child marriage are positively correlated up to secondary education level in most countries in South Asia. In India, for example, 80 percent of early-marriage households have female members without any education while 42.4 percent of households with early-married women have male members who finished secondary school.

Further analysis should be followed to derive causal relationship between the impact of adult education on child marriage. However, the drastic difference in the incidence of child marriage between households with non-educated and educated women implies that education may have large impact on overall perspectives on child marriage.

You may access our full Stata do-file by accessing the following link. Our work consists of running the following command for each dataset and saving the results in order to export to Tableau.


Brown, Gordon. 2012. “Out of Wedlock into School: Combating Child Marriage Through Education.” The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown Limited 34.

Ijeoma, Okereke Chinyere, Joseph O. Uwakwe, and Nwamuo Paul. 2013. “Education an Antidote Against Early Marriage for the Girl-Child.” Journal of Educational and Social Research 3 (5): 73.

Parsons, Jennifer, Jeffrey Edmeades, Aslihan Kes, Suzanne Petroni, Maggie Sexton, and Quentin Wodon. 2015. “Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: A Review of the Literature.” The Review of Faith & International Affairs 13 (3): 12–22.

UNICEF. 2005. Early Marriage: A Harmful Traditional Practice. A Statistical Exploration 2005. UNICEF.