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

80 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2019 Last revised: 2 Mar 2019

See all articles by Oriana Bandiera

Oriana Bandiera

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Niklas Buehren

World Bank

Markus Goldstein

World Bank

Imran Rasul

University College London - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Andrea Smurra

Myanmar Development Resource Institute-Centre for Economic and Social Development

Date Written: February 28, 2019

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Bandiera, Oriana and Buehren, Niklas and Goldstein, Markus P. and Rasul, Imran and Smurra, Andrea, The Economic Lives of Young Women in the Time of Ebola: Lessons from an Empowerment Program (February 28, 2019). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 8760, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3344844

Oriana Bandiera (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
+44 20 7955 7519 (Phone)
+44 20 7055 6951 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Niklas Buehren

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Markus P. Goldstein

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Imran Rasul

University College London - Department of Economics ( email )

Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom
+44 20 7679 5853 (Phone)
+44 20 7916 2775 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Andrea Smurra

Myanmar Development Resource Institute-Centre for Economic and Social Development ( email )

Myanmar

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