Delaying Pregnancy among Youth in Tanzania | Manisha Shah, UCLA

The Challenge
Throughout the developing world, structural, cultural, and individual factors prevent women from achieving their desired fertility and education outcomes. In Tanzania, only 38 percent of girls have completed a primary education while nearly 70 percent report wanting to have a university level education. Less than 10 percent of adolescents report using modern contraceptive methods even though 60 percent of girls have had sex before the age of 18. Despite high aspirations, poor education, financial constraints, early marriage, pregnancy, and lack of bargaining power limit girls’ opportunities for success.

The Approach
In 2008 BRAC started the Empowerment and Livelihoods for Adolescents (ELA) program, which provides a safe space (or “club”) and livelihoods and life skills training for vulnerable girls aged 12-24 years old. They have identified social norms that discourage discussion around sexual relationships, even among close friends, and the prioritization of short-term over long-term benefits as factors preventing girls from achieving their goals.

This study tests the relative importance of these two major behavioral factors – present bias and social norms – in decision-making around education and reproductive health among 12-15 year old girls that participate in BRAC’s ELA program. Researchers will follow each girl for two years. Girls in 160 villages will be randomly assigned to four different treatment arms (see table below) while 40 villages without ELA clubs will serve as a comparison group. In treatment arms 2-4, girls will also receive free access to contraceptives.

Tanzania ELA2

The primary outcomes of interest include girls’ stated goals and whether their goals are achieved; school attendance and dropout rates; attitudes towards and use of contraceptives; age of first pregnancy; and changes in time preferences.

The Lesson
Project ongoing, results forthcoming


Photo Credit: Feans, Creative Commons, Rural School in Tanzania.

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