The Puggle: July 2018 edition

Welcome to Echidna Giving’s “Puggle,” where we share monthly updates on news and research related to girls’ education. We’re at the peak of vacation season in the Northern Hemisphere. As photos of happy holiday-ing fill your social media streams, you might feel a twinge of FOMO—the fear of missing out on a joyful vacation. We can’t do much to help with that, but if you’re just coming back from vacation and afraid you’ve missed out on the latest and greatest in girls’ education, we’re here to help! Here’s what happened in July:

The World Bank (in collaboration with the Malala Fund, the Global Partnership for Education, and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation) showed that what we should really fear missing out on are the benefits of girls’ education. In Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls, researchers estimate that the global economy is losing out on tens of trillions of dollars because of the large number of girls who do not finish secondary education. The report catalogues how girls’ education could impact earnings, early marriage, population growth, well-being, decision-making, and social capital.

 Conceptual framework from Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls

The report is explicit about the shortcomings of these estimates. For instance, they are based on education attainment, which is not a perfect proxy for education given the limited amount of learning that occurs in far too many classrooms. They don’t take into consideration the fact that as more women finish secondary education, the wage returns to secondary education may decline, which would bias the figures upwards. Then again, nor do their calculations take into consideration intergenerational costs, which would bias the figures downwards. When women are not educated, their own children will finish less education and earn lower wages.

Results are out on the World’s First Development Impact Bond in Education. Educate Girls’s intervention exceeded its school enrollment and learning outcome targets. They were able to achieve these results in part by reacting to interim data—because reading and math results were lagging, Educate Girls increased the number of learning sessions and used more targeted instruction. As thisblog points out, we do not know whether the same outcomes would have been achieved through traditional financing like government or grant funding.

J-PAL launched A Practical Guide to Measuring Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in Impact Evaluations. Bottom line: off-the-shelf measures don’t always measure empowerment, but it is possible (and important!) to develop better indicators. The guide describes how an understanding of gender dynamics in the specific context can be used to develop locally relevant indicators that complement internationally standardized ones. Learn more by watching this event at the Center for Global Development or reading Pamela Jakiela’s blog about it.

Seema Jayachandran wrote for the NYTimes on research from development economics showing how “instilling optimism and hope can help lift people out of poverty.” Another example of this comes out clearly in J-PAL’s policy brief on reducing pregnancy among adolescents: “Adolescents who hold optimistic beliefs about their future opportunities may be more likely to avoid risky sexual behaviors and engage in productive economic activities.” That said, there is a fine line between raising hopes and dashing them. “[W]hile moderately high aspirations can provide crucial motivation, unrealistically high aspirations can be so discouraging that they are harmful. Repeatedly falling short can deplete motivation.”

Here’s to finding just the right level of optimism, and maybe even abandoning your FOMO in favor of JOMO (the joy of missing out) this summer.