Adolescent girls are viewed as a key demographic group to target in order to successfully break the intergenerational transmission of poverty in developing countries (Levine et al. 2008). Unfortunately, for many teenage girls in developing countries, adolescence entails a fleeting transition from childhood to adulthood, when they are suddenly expected to “behave as adults even though they are not biologically, cognitively, or emotionally ready to assume adult responsibilities” (Naudeau, Hasan and Bakilana 2015). Adolescence is also a time in which girls face a multitude of hazards ranging from school dropout, child marriage, teen pregnancy, physical and mental health problems, and gender based violence (Baird et al. 2016).

Young people’s capabilities and functioning during this period not only have immediate consequences to their own lives (Heckman and Corbin 2016), but also longer-term effects on their offspring and communities at large (Lloyd and Young 2009; Duflo 2012). Interventions that help adolescent girls reach their full potential by increasing their education, improving their skills, and delaying childbearing and marriage have the potential to create a virtuous cycle that improves health, especially child health, and women’s empowerment — ultimately leading to higher economic growth (Canning, Raja, and Yazbeck 2015).

This report summarizes the state of the evidence and provides policy guidance on interventions that have sought to (1) increase educational attainment, (2) delay childbearing, and/or (3) delay marriage for adolescent girls in developing countries. We focus on these three outcomes for a number of reasons. First, it is believed that altering these outcomes can have lasting effects on an individual’s well-being as well as the well-being of others, for example an individual’s (future) children. This is not to say that improving other outcomes during adolescence (such as mental health or exposure to violence) does not have lasting effects on well-being; rather, for practical purposes, we need to reduce the space of interventions to consider. Second, despite these outcomes having long-lasting effects on lifetime well-being, they can be readily measured in the short-medium term making it easier for researchers to analyze the impacts of different interventions on them.

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