We use across-ethnic-group variation in exposure to a law that banned the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) in Senegal to evaluate the impact of the law and to document the perverse effect that this cultural practice has on girls’ education. We find that the law, interpreted as a rise in the cost of FGC, reduced the prevalence of FGC, which later increased educational investments received by girls. To explain this result, we propose a theoretical model where, consistent with previous evidence, both education and FGC lead to better marriage market outcomes. In line with the predictions of the model, the results suggest that education and FGC work as substitutes in the marriage market and that educational investments are affected by the cost of alternative pre-marital investments. Additionally, we rule out alternative mechanisms, such as a broader change in gender norms, better health or fewer adolescent women leaving school to get married, to explain why the law increased educational investments. Keywords: Female genital cutting, education, harmful traditions.
Key words: Female genital cutting, education, harmful traditions.
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