High hopes, low dropout: Gender differences in aspirations for education and marriage, and educational outcomes in rural Malawi

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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The relationship between aspirations and educational outcomes has been underexplored in sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on six waves of panel data from the Malawi Schooling and Adolescent Study, I use discrete time models to examine the relationship between aspirations for both education and marriage, and school dropout in Southern Malawi. Results show that, net of sociostructural constraints and students’ own educational experiences, girls who want to marry later are less likely to drop out of school during the study period. In addition, competing risk models show that girls who want to marry later are less likely to experience marriage-related dropout. Although there is some evidence that educational aspirations are associated with school dropout, this relationship weakens when marriage aspirations are held constant, particularly for girls. These findings demonstrate the importance of considering both educational and marital aspirations as pathways relevant to girls’ (but not boys’) educational outcomes.