May 1, 2016
During her time in the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama has championed so many important causes – many of them geared toward helping children and women around the world.
One of these crucial initiatives, launched last year, was Let Girls Learn – an effort to educate teenage girls. This effort was backed by studies that showed that when women and girls are educated, a nation’s economy rises. In an interview with a U.S. Agency for International Development publication, Michelle said:
“Studies from the World Bank show that one extra year of secondary school can increase a girl’s future income by 15 to 25 percent. And we know that when girls are educated, they are less likely to contract HIV, more likely to delay childbearing and vaccinate their children, and have lower maternal and infant mortality rates. Research even shows that sending more girls to school can boost an entire country’s GDP.”
The link between the education of girls and a nation’s GDP has been made before – and thanks to an analysis by Politifact, we now know that there’s a lot of truth to that statement.
According to research, when there are more girls in school, there is a higher gross domestic product – although there is some uncertainty if it’s a stronger economy that results in more girls being educated, or if having more girls in school leads to the rise of a nation’s economy. One policy report from the World Bank said:
“By effectively educating more women — that is, providing more women with a high-quality education — more will enter the labor market, and the economy will show the favorable results.”
Although educating girls has been shown to improve the economy, this doesn’t account for any obstacles women might encounter even if they are educated. Sexism and gender inequality can still have an impact on the economy even as efforts are made to put more girls in school and give them more resources and opportunities. According to a 2009 article in the journal Feminist Economics, the economic benefit will be lost if companies refuse to hire educated girls.
However, the gains of educating girls are far more than any roadblocks they may encounter. Education allows girls to make informed decisions about their lives and allows them to contribute to and help improve society. Michelle was dead on when she said:
“We need to get these girls into school, because we know that education is the single-most important stepping stone to power, to freedom, and to equality.”