ELECTRICITY IS CRITICAL FOR INCREASING CHILD SCHOOL ATTENDANCE: EVIDENCE FROM ETHIOPIA UNDER THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Johns Hopkins University
Improving access to electricity is a major challenge in Ethiopia, one of the fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa. While many households in urban areas have access to grid connected electricity, less than half of those in rural areas do. Investment in education lags far behind that of other low- and middle-income countries and many children are still forced into child labor, child marriage or pregnancy. In this paper, I examine the relationship between electricity poverty and children’s school attendance in Ethiopia, taking advantage of the episode of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March 2020 and September 2020, 26 million children in Ethiopia were kept out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This increased the importance of electricity in education, as the closure of schools meant that many children missed out on government-provided distance learning opportunities, and there were fears that child labor, child marriage or pregnancy would increase, further widening the education gap in the country. This paper analyzes the impact of improved access to private electricity in each household on children’s school attendance after the pandemic restrictions were lifted, controlling for age, gender, and region. The results indicate that school attendance recovered after schools reopened, regardless of age, gender, or region. However, lack of private access to electricity had a significant impact on children’s school attendance, as access to remedies was limited during the pandemic, and school attendance for this group declined significantly after the COVID-19 pandemic. I show that this was associated with a greater likelihood of child labor, child marriage or pregnancy, especially in conflict areas. Overall, this analysis shows that improving private access to electricity can lead to better educational outcomes.
development economics, COVID-19, electricity, school attendance