Despite a large number of empirical studies, the controversy of whether a gender gap in education harms or boosts economic performance still persists. We conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of the empirical literature on the link between gender inequality in education and per capita economic growth. After highlighting the methodological challenges of causally estimating this relationship, we document correlational evidence of a positive link between educational gender equality and economic growth. In particular, we find that studies that include male and female education as separate covariates in the growth regression report larger correlation sizes of female compared to male education with economic growth, except when an arguably problematic regression specification popularized by Barro and co-authors is used. Furthermore, studies that use gender gap (female/male ratio) in education as explanatory variable show an average partial correlation coefficient between growth and educational gender equality of 0.25, which is a moderate positive correlation. We also observe that the partial correlation increases with the use of initial education levels and social/institutional variables as controls, and becomes smaller with the use of country fixed effects, the inclusion of economic variables, and a higher share of female authors. We additionally assess six studies in our sample that use quasi-experimental methods (instrumental variable techniques) as an attempt to elicit a causal effect. Direction and magnitude of the estimates from these studies are comparable with the correlational evidence, but we note that the validity of many of the instruments used is open to question. We do not find evidence of publication bias in this literature.
- LIFE EXPECTANCY