December 2012

IZA DP No. 7059: Going to School in Purdah: Female Schooling, Mobility Norms and Madrasas in Bangladesh

This paper looks at the determinants of secondary school attendance in Bangladesh with a focus on the interaction between community gender norms and relative supply of madrasas (i.e. Islamic schools). We present a theoretical framework where the probability of children's school participation varies with respect to a non-economic factor – how the community observes social norms regarding female mobility – conditional upon the types of available schools. Household data from the Bangladesh Demographic Health Survey (BDHS) is combined with community information on the availability of non-religious secondary schools and madrasas to test our theoretical predictions. We find that in communities which are more 'progressive', in the sense that women have a relatively high level of mobility, the effect of non-religious school availability on attendance does not vary by gender. However in the more 'conservative communities', female schooling is more sensitive to the availability of, or distance to, madrasas.