A Social Vaccine? HIV Infection, Fertility, and the Non-Pecuniary Returns to Secondary Schooling in Botswana

Jan-Walter De Neve, Harvard University

Education has been hailed as a “social vaccine” against HIV infection; however, there is little causal evidence to support this claim. A 1996 reform in Botswana changed the grade structure of secondary school and raised educational attainment by 0.8 years (se=0.2) for affected cohorts. We exploit this ‘natural experiment’ to identify the effect of secondary schooling on HIV infection risk, fertility, sexual behaviors, and labor market outcomes. Each additional year of secondary schooling induced by the reform decreased the probability of HIV infection by 8.1% points (se=3.1) and childbearing by 15.8% points (se=5.7). Schooling had no effect on HIV knowledge; however it influenced norms and behaviors regarding condom use and HIV testing. For women, education delayed sexual debut and increased labor force participation. For men, education increased number of partners, but also increased literacy and discussing HIV with others. Returns-to-schooling estimates that exclude these non-pecuniary benefits may be too low.

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Presented in Poster Session 9: Family Planning, Sexual Behavior, and Reproductive Health