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As women progress in developing nations, so do those countries' economies

New studies show that it's just 'good economics' to promote the welfare of girls.

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If a developing nation wants to make fast progress, it must educate its girls and give them more equality in jobs and economic opportunities.

Decades of international and domestic efforts to speed development in more than 100 poor countries shows that, as the title of a recent study puts it, "Girls Count."

More than just counting, helping girls get ahead and out of the limitations that so many cultures have placed on them for hundreds of years is vital to overcoming poverty and growing prosperity.

Even Wall Street, with its interest in international investment, sees this.

"Education, and particularly women's education, is critical" to economic growth, says Sandra Lawson, author of a 15-page paper given clients by the prominent New York investment banking firm, Goldman Sachs. She used for the title of the paper, a Chinese proverb, "Women Hold Up Half the Sky."

"Educating girls and women leads to higher wages," notes a summary of the paper. "A greater likelihood of working outside the home; lower fertility; reduced maternal and child mortality; and better health and education. The impact is felt not only in women's lifetimes, but also in the health, education, and productivity of future generations."

It is just plain "good economics" to promote the welfare of girls, says Malcolm Ehrenpreis, head of a special gender unit at the World Bank that strives to encourage attention to equality for women in the bank's development activities.

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