The Role of Soft Skills in Pregnancy and Work | Paul Gertler, UC Berkeley & Dana Carney, UC Berkeley

The Challenge
High population growth is among the most damaging factors to economic and social growth. In sub-Saharan Africa fertility rates are twice as high as in the rest of the world. For youth, the timing of fertility affects labor market choices, which, in turn, affects timing of fertility.

Educate! Uganda

As in most developing countries, a large share of Ugandan youth are unemployed or underemployed and face numerous challenges entering and succeeding in the labor market, including early marriage and fertility. The government is mainstreaming entrepreneurship training in high school curriculum to better equip students with the skills required for self-employment.

The Approach
This project, in partnership with the International Labour Organization and Educate!, leverages the government programs to test which combination of skills best prepare graduating high school students for the labor market and which skills can affect reproductive health outcomes. Graduating male and female high school students ages 18-19 applied to participate in different three-week intensive entrepreneurship curricula in forty schools.

Researchers randomly selected 3,600 students and assigned them to five treatment groups outlined in the table below. The reproductive health module used cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help students incorporate their professional goals with their plans to start a family. The training was designed to help students assert their needs, control emotions and drives, negotiate, delay gratification, and focus on their own goals.                                           Uganda PD pics

Individual students completed a skills test before and after the training to measure its short-term effectiveness. Researchers will continue to track the students as they enter the labor market and post-secondary education via phone and in-person interviews to capture the longer-term effects.

Reproductive outcomes measured will include desired and actual number and timing of children, contraceptive use, marriage, and beliefs about the role of women in child rearing and work. Researchers will also test psychological and behavioral outcomes such as feelings of power and stress, risk-tolerance, time preferences, and negotiation skills. Additionally, the follow up surveys will measure professional outcomes such as university admissions and success, employment, entrepreneurial activities, and writing skills. 

The Lesson
Project ongoing, final results forthcoming.


Photo Credit: Educate! Uganda

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