The High Cost of Education Inequality Worldwide

A new study by the World Bank measures the economic costs to nations which don’t educate girls—and the numbers are staggering. According to the report “Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls,” countries that limit education for girls lose approximately $15 trillion to $30 trillion in lifetime productivity and earnings.

Students at a rural school in Mongolia. (World Bank / Creative Commons)

Only 77 percent of girls globally complete secondary education, and their schooling could be the key to economic prosperity for their communities. The World Bank found that any more than 12 years of education for girls can counter substantial increases in a nation’s general poverty. According to their findings, girls who graduate from secondary school earn almost twice as much as those with no education. Their education also benefits society at-large greatly—it leads directly to ending child marriage, reduced fertility rates, increased knowledge of STDs, reduced risk of domestic violence, reduced mortality and malnutrition rates for children and increased access to institutions and women’s ability to navigate them.

These findings may feel like common sense, but by creating a statistical and economically-grounded case for girls’ education, the World Bank is bolstering the efforts of feminists worldwide pushing for the same.

“More needs to be done to improve educational opportunities for girls, as well as learning while in school,” the organization writes in the report. “To make the case for such investments, given data constraints, the focus of this study is on the potential impacts and cost of low educational attainment for girls as opposed to lack of learning. The goal is that these associations can illustrate the wide ranging potential impacts and cost of not educating girls, and in this way foster greater policy mobilization towards ensuring that all girls complete secondary school and acquire the foundational skills needed to thrive in the labor market and live more fulfilling lives.”


Cori Bratby-Rudd is an eclectic writer from the Bay Area. She graduated Cum Laude from UCLA’s Gender Studies department, and is a current MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Cal Arts. Cori enjoys incorporating themes of emotional healing and social justice into her works. She is currently living in the Los Angeles area and has been published in Ms. Magazine, The Gordian Review, Califragile, among many others. She recently won the Editorial Choice Award for her research paper in Audeamus Academic Journal and was nominated as one of Lambda Literary's 2018 Emerging Writers. Her writing also appears on her website: