Summary

(January 2016) Solid evidence on the links between preventing adolescent childbearing and alleviating poverty can motivate policymakers and donors to invest in reproductive health and family planning programs for youth. Research that documents the clear cause-and-effect relationship between program interventions and outcomes, such as better health and delayed childbearing among teens, can guide decisions about investments in research or programs.

This report examines the evidence for investing in adolescent reproductive health and family planning programs from the perspective of making an evidence-based argument to guide the investment or spending decisions of public or private organizations. Key steps in developing such an argument—a business case—include:

  • The consequences of relevant trends.
  • Evidence on the potential of particular actions or interventions to change the status quo.
  • The costs associated with different actions.

This report highlights new research from the Population and Poverty (PopPov) Research Initiative that bolsters the case for these investments and identifies knowledge gaps where research is still needed.

Recent research shows that adolescent childbearing and early marriage are detrimental to girls’ health, school completion, and long-term earning potential, and to their babies’ health and development—contributing to poverty at the household and national level. This report surveys evidence on the effectiveness of several types of interventions:

  • School-based programs.
  • Peer education.
  • Youth-friendly services.
  • Sexuality education.
  • Youth development and life skills training.
  • Social marketing and behavior-change communication.
  • Cash transfers and other financial incentives.
  • Multipronged interventions.

Thomas W. Merrick is a visiting scholar at the Population Reference Bureau (PRB). He has served as adviser for the Learning Program on Poverty Reduction, Reproductive Health, and Health Sector Strengthening at the World Bank Institute; as senior adviser for Population and Reproductive Health for the Human Development Network at the World Bank; as president of PRB; and as director of the Center for Population Research at Georgetown University.