Schooling in Sickness and in Health: The Effects of Epidemic Disease on Gender Inequality

April 01, 2018

Belinda Archibong and Francis Annan


Disease epidemics can worsen social inequality by increasing gender gaps in educational attainment through raising the direct and opportunity costs of investing in girls, particularly in poorer countries. We investigate this hypothesis by examining the effects of sudden exposure to the 1986 meningitis epidemic in Niger on the gender gap in education. We document a significant reduction in years of education for school-aged girls relative to boys following the epidemic. We explore several channels underlying the results and find evidence highlighting income effects of epidemics on households and increased early marriage of girls.

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