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The impact of parental death on school enrolment and achievement: Longitudinal evidence from South Africa

Year: 2006
Author: Case, Anne
Journal: Demography
Volume: 43
Issue: 3
Pages: 401–420
Abstract:

We analyze longitudinal data from a demographic surveillance area (DSA) in KwaZulu-Natal to examine the impact of parental death on children's outcomes. The results show signifi cant differences in the impact of mothers' and fathers' deaths. The loss of a child's mother is a strong predictor of poor schooling outcomes. Maternal orphans are signifi cantly less likely to be enrolled in school and have completed signifi cantly fewer years of schooling, conditional on age, than children whose mothers are alive. Less money is spent on maternal orphans' educations, on average, conditional on enrollment. Moreover, children whose mothers have died appear to be at an educational disadvantage when compared with non-orphaned children with whom they live. We use the timing of mothers' deaths relative to children's educational shortfalls to argue that mothers' deaths have a causal effect on children's educations. The loss of a child's father is a signifi cant correlate of poor household socioeconomic status. However, the death of a father between waves of the survey has no signifi cant effect on subsequent asset ownership. Evidence from the South African 2001 Census suggests that the estimated effects of maternal deaths on children's outcomes in the Africa Centre DSA refl ect the reality for orphans throughout South Africa.


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