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Public Policy and Extended Families: Evidence from Pensions in South Africa

  • Marianne Bertrand
  • Sendhil Mullainathan
  • Douglas Miller

How are resources allocated within extended families in developing economies? This question is investigated using a unique social experiment: the South African pension program. Under that program the elderly receive a cash transfer equal to roughly twice the per capita income of Africans in South Africa. The study examines how this transfer affects the labor supply of prime-age individuals living with these elderly in extended families. It finds a sharp drop in the working hours of prime-age individuals in these households when women turn 60 years old or men turn 65, the ages at which they become eligible for pensions. It also finds that the drop in labor supply is much larger when the pensioner is a woman, suggesting an imperfect pooling of resources. The allocation of resources among prime-age individuals depends strongly on their absolute age and gender as well as on their relative age. The oldest son in the household reduces his working hours more than any other prime-age household member. Copyright 2003, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by World Bank Group in its journal The World Bank Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 17 (2003)
Issue (Month): 1 (June)
Pages: 27-50

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Handle: RePEc:oup:wbecrv:v:17:y:2003:i:1:p:27-50
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  1. Duncan Thomas, 1990. "Intra-Household Resource Allocation: An Inferential Approach," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(4), pages 635-664.
  2. Lundberg, S. & Pollak, R.A., 1991. "Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 91-08, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
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  7. Andreoni, James & Vesterlund, Lise, 2001. "Which is the Fair Sex? Gender Differences in Altruism," Staff General Research Papers Archive 1951, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  8. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, September.
  9. Chiappori, P.A., 1989. "Collective Labour Supply and Welfare," DELTA Working Papers 89-07, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  10. Guido W. Imbens & Donald B. Rubin & Bruce Sacerdote, 1999. "Estimating the Effect of Unearned Income on Labor Supply, Earnings, Savings, and Consumption: Evidence from a Survey of Lottery Players," NBER Working Papers 7001, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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