Pupil Absenteeism, Measurement, and Menstruation: Evidence from Western Kenya

Anja Benshaul-Tolonen, Garazi Zulaika, Elizabeth Nyothach, Clifford Oduor, Linda Mason, David Obar, Kelly T. Alexander, Kayla F. Laserson, and Penelope A. Phillips-Howard


Due to data limitations it is unclear if biological processes hinder girls in developing countries from participating in school to a greater extent than boys. We collect 32,000 unannounced random spot-checks for 6,000 students in Kenya to assess this claim. Although absenteeism is common, pubescent girls miss more schooldays because of school transfers. Cohen’s kappa coefficient reveals non-random inconsistencies across the spot check data and school registers. We conduct a three-arm pilot cluster randomized controlled trial that provided sanitary products to schoolgirls to reduce absenteeism. Using the school record data, we would draw erroneous conclusions. Using the spot-check data, we confirm that providing sanitary pads reduces absenteeism by 5.4 percentage points.

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