What Works in Girls' Education

Factsheet 1

The World's Best Investment: Girls' Education

Photo Credit: Malin Fezhai / HUMAN for Malala Fund

Girls' education brings high returns not just for income and economic growth, but in other crucial areas as well—including improving children’s and women's survival rates and health, reducing population growth, protecting children's rights and delaying child marriage, empowering women in the home and in the workplace, and improving climate change adaptation.

Promotes Economic Growth

Teacher writing on board.

Investing in education, especially girls' education, increases economic and agricultural productivity and therefore contributes to economic growth.

Increasing the number of women completing secondary education by just 1 percent could increase a country's economic growth by 0.3 percent. But even more significantly, increasing the number of people with strong literacy and numeracy scores can increase growth by a full 2 percent.

Improves Wages and Jobs


Decades of research shows that better- educated women earn more, have better jobs, and invest their earnings into their famlies. Considering many women across the globe work in informal or unpaid work, a steady job and higher wages translates into better outcomes for families.

Every additional year of school a woman attends increases her wages by an average of 12 percent. Also, if she has above-average math skills she can earn 18 percent more.2

Saves Lives

Bar graph showing decrease in mortality rate as education level rose.

Increasing girls' education reduces infant and maternal mortality because educated mothers have fewer pregnancies, are less likely to give birth as teenagers, and are better able to seek and negotiate life-saving health care for themselves and their young children.

Leads to Healthier, Smaller Families

Women with higher levels of education have fewer children, are more likely to give birth for the first time later in life, and to have children more than two years apart. Specifically, reducing the number of girls giving birth before age 17 would promote healthier, smaller families. If all women had a primary education, early births could fall by 10 percent. If all women had a secondary education, early births could fall by 59 percent.

Primary education=10% decrease in early child births. Secondary Education=59% decrease.

Results in Healthier, Better-Educated Children

Mother and child.

Better-educated mothers have healthier and better-educated children, who are more likely to benefit from adequate nutrition and immunizations, attend school more regularly and longer, and study more frequently. On average, each additional year of school a mother attends leads to her children completing four more months of school by the age of 15 to 18.

Decreases HIV/AIDS and Malaria

Girls and women who are better educated are less likely to contract and spread HIV/AIDS because they have more knowledge about how it is contracted and practice safer sex. For that reason, girls' education is often called the “social vaccine.” The same is true for malaria.

If all young adults completed primary education, we could expect 700,000 fewer new cases of HIV infections each year, or 7 million in a decade.

As for malaria, if all mothers completed a secondary education the odds that children would carry malaria parasites would be 36 percent lower.

700K lives per year saves 7M lives in a decade

Decreases Child Marriage

Picture showing difference in early marriages in girls with secondary education vs girls with no education.

A high-quality education for girls is a critical strategy for preventing child marriage and improving the lives of girls who are already married. Across 18 of the 20 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage, girls with no education are up to six times more likely to marry as children than girls with a secondary education.

Leads to Empowerment

Every year of school completed leads to a 10% decrease in believing domestic abuse is acceptable.

Educating women and girls improves their agency and empowers them. For example, women with higher levels of education are less likely to accept domestic violence, more likely to have control over household resource decisions, and have greater freedom to move about on their own. In a study of one African country, for every additional year of school a woman completed she was 10 percent less likely to believe domestic abuse is acceptable.

Promotes Political Leadership

Statistics showing the benefits if Female Literacy increased in India.

Girls' education helps give women the skills they need to take on leadership roles in public life. In those roles, they are much more likely to advocate for decisions and policy that benefit family and community life, such as improved education and social services.

In India, increasing the number of women who can read and write by 8 percent would increase the share of female candidates by 16 percent, the share of votes obtained by women by 13 percent, and female voter turnout by 4 percent.

Prepares For Natural Disasters and Climate Change

Around the world, better-educated women are able to protect themselves and their families from the effects of natural disasters because they can provide higher quality of care for their children in the face of crisis and navigate the challenges posed to bounce back quicker. Deaths due to disaster could be reduced by 60 percent by 2050 if 70 percent of all 20-39 year old women completed lower-secondary school.

Graph of deaths decreasing per year by 60% in 35 years.

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