November 2016

IZA DP No. 10387: Free Primary Education, Schooling, and Fertility: Evidence from Ethiopia

accepted in: World Bank Economic Review, 2019

This paper investigates the causal relationship between women's education and fertility by exploiting variation generated by the removal of school fees in Ethiopia. The increase in schooling caused by this reform is identified using both geographic variation in the intensity of the reform's impact and the temporal variation generated by the implementation of the reform. The model finds that the removal of school fees in Ethiopia led to an increase of over 1.5 years of schooling for women affected by the reform. A two-stage least squares approach is used to measure the impact of the exogenous increase in schooling on fertility. Each additional year of schooling led to a reduction in fertility, a delay in sexual activity, marriage, and the timing of at least their first, second, and third births. There is also evidence that the increase in schooling led to improved labor market outcomes, and a reduction in the desired number of children. Additionally, there is evidence of strategic use of hidden forms of contraception, only after family size becomes sufficiently large or after two sons have been born.