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Education and

Poverty

Key message

Education is a key driver of poverty reduction.


When a country invests in quality education, particularly for lower-income families, poverty decreases. Families who choose to send their children to school can break the cycle of poverty for the next generation. The impact on poverty reduction is especially profound for women and girls.
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Key challenges
  • Poverty is a vicious cycle: those who need education to escape poverty are the least likely to have access to it. In lower-middle-income countries, children from the poorest quintile are eight times more likely to be out of school than children from the wealthiest
    (UNESCO, 2017).
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Make the case
  • Education lifts people out of poverty. If all adults had a secondary education, 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty - more than half of the world population still living in extreme poverty
    (UNESCO, 2017).
  • Each additional year of education significantly reduces poverty. Every additional year of education is linked to a 9% lower poverty rate for young adults (aged 25-34) worldwide
    (UNICEF, 2015).
  • Even learning basic skills is enough to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. If all students in low-income countries acquire basic reading skills, there would be 171 million fewer people living in poverty
    (EFA GMR, 2014).
  • Education raises individual income, especially for women. Each additional year of schooling can raise an individual’s earning by 8-10%; the gain is higher for women
    (World Bank, 2018).
  • Education is an important asset to securing formal employment. In developing countries, the share of informal employment decreases from 93.9% for workers with no education, 86% for those with primary education, 59.1% for those with secondary education, and only 32% for those with tertiary education
    (ILO, 2018).
  • When a country achieves universal primary education, its poorest households enjoy a higher share of income. From a review of more than 60 studies, expansion of primary education enrolment from 50 to 100% is linked to an 8% increase in the share of income going to households in the poorest 10%
    (World Bank, 2018).
  • Education helps minorities have equal access to formal employment and social protection. In Peru, indigenous and non-indigenous people have similar chances of finding formal employment if they have equal educational levels in primary and tertiary education
    (Montes et al., 2016).
  • When a country achieves universal primary education, its poorest households enjoy a higher share of income. From a review of more than 60 studies, expansion of primary education enrolment from 50 to 100% is linked to an 8% increase in the share of income going to households in the poorest 10%
    (World Bank, 2018).
  • Educating women is key to breaking intergenerational poverty The evidence is clear that an educated mother brings substantial health, nutrition, caregiving, and education benefits to her children.
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Key opinion
Martin Short
Martin Short
CEO of Power of Nutrition
Education is a pathway out of poverty. But there are building blocks that remain vital to achieve the greatest impact from that Education. Besides the physical impairment and vulnerability, a stunted child has, on average, lower test scores on cognitive assessments and activity level. This will severely hamper his or her journey through the education system. Education and nutrition are two of the most pressing global issues today, and they are closely interlinked to the intergenerational cycles of poverty and gender inequality. Education, in and of itself, has an enormous positive impact on the disposable income of the family unit and therefore on the nutrition status of a household or a community. Good nutrition allows children to thrive and learn at school, which in turn triggers positive social and economic changes in countries and across generations. Education and nutrition are drivers for development and prosperity.
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Key talking points
  • Education lifts families, communities and countries out of poverty.
  • Securing secondary education for all would bring more than half of the world out of extreme poverty.
  • The impact of education on poverty reduction is particularly significant for girls and women.
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