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Dating, sex, and schooling in urban Kenya

Shelley Clark, McGill University
Rohini Mathur, McGill University

Completing secondary school is increasingly viewed as a desirable life goal for young men and women living in urban Kenya. Yet, achieving this goal often conflicts with other key transitions to adulthood such as becoming sexually active, getting married, having children, and finding a job. Drawing on exceptionally rich life history calendar data from youths in Kisumu, Kenya, we explore how the timing and sequencing of key transitions affect the likelihood of completing secondary school for men and women, separately. We also examine how enrolment and performance in school may, in turn, affect the timing of sexual debut. We find that sexual activity and transitions towards family formation are largely incompatible with young women’s schooling, while for men having romantic and sexual partnerships has no impact on their schooling, unless their partner becomes pregnant. Instead, finding paid employment appears to be least compatible with men’s continued education.

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Presented in Session 57: Schooling, employment, and the transition into adulthood