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The Economic Lives of Young Women in the Time of Ebola : Lessons from an Empowerment Program (English)

This paper evaluates an intervention to raise young women's economic empowerment in Sierra Leone, where women frequently experience sexual violence and face multiple economic disadvantages. The intervention provides them with a protective space (a club) where they can find support, receive information on health and reproductive issues, and vocational training. Unexpectedly, the post-baseline period coincided with the 2014 Ebola outbreak. The analysis leverages quasi-random across-village variation in the severity of Ebola-related disruption, and random assignment of villages to the intervention to document the impact of the Ebola outbreak on the economic lives of 4,700 women tracked over the crisis, and any ameliorating role played by the intervention. In highly disrupted control villages, the crisis leads younger girls to spend significantly more time with men, out-of-wedlock pregnancies rise, and as a result, they experience a persistent 16 percentage points drop in school enrolment post-crisis. These adverse effects are almost entirely reversed in treated villages because the intervention enables young girls to allocate time away from men, preventing out-of-wedlock pregnancies and enabling them to re-enrol in school post-crisis. In treated villages, the unavailability of young women leads some older girls to use transactional sex as a coping strategy. The intervention causes them to increase contraceptive use so this does not translate into higher fertility. The analysis pinpoints the mechanisms through which the severity of the aggregate shock impacts the economic lives of young women and shows how interventions in times of crisis can interlink outcomes across younger and older cohorts.


  • Author

    Bandiera,Oriana, Buehren,Niklas, Goldstein,Markus P., Rasul,Imran, Smurra,Andrea

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  • Document Type

    Policy Research Working Paper

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  • Country

    Sierra Leone,

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  • Doc Name

    The Economic Lives of Young Women in the Time of Ebola : Lessons from an Empowerment Program

  • Keywords

    young woman; women of child-bearing age; human capital; young girl; aggregate shock; average age at marriage; labor force participation rate; economic empowerment of woman; Infection Prevention and Control; public health care provision; marginal utility of consumption; leading cause of death; pregnant girl; life skill; old girl; income generating activity; human capital accumulation; life skill training; health service provision; exposure to violence; intimate partner violence; income generation; health facility; vocational skill; secret societies; access to information; labor market outcome; human capital outcomes; human capital investment; risk of pregnancy; violence against woman; Science and Technology; age of marriage; labor market participation; adolescent fertility rate; maternal mortality rate; impact on price; gender based violence; female genital mutilation; health related behaviors; health care service; labor market earning; community learning centres; health care system; risky sexual behavior; public health provision; data collection activity; labor market activity; number of women; loss of work; sexually active girls; forms of contraception; mexican peso crisis; lives of women; school closure; Health Workers



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Bandiera,Oriana Buehren,Niklas Goldstein,Markus P. Rasul,Imran Smurra,Andrea

The Economic Lives of Young Women in the Time of Ebola : Lessons from an Empowerment Program (English). Policy Research working paper,no. WPS 8760,Impact Evaluation series Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.