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Are boys and girls affected differently when the household head leaves for good? Evidence from school and work choices in Colombia


  • Emla Fitzsimons

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Institute of Education, University of London)

  • Alice Mesnard

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and City University London)


This paper investigates how the permanent departure of the head from the household, mainly due to death or divorce, affects children's school enrolment and work participation in rural Colombia. In our empirical specification we use household-level fixed effects to deal with the fact that households that experience the departure of the head are likely to differ in unobserved ways from those that do not, and we also address the issue of non-random attrition from the panel. We find remarkably different effects for boys and girls. For boys, the adverse event reduces school participation and increases participation in paid work, whereas for girls we find evidence of the adverse event having a beneficial impact on schooling. To explain these differences, we provide evidence for boys consistent with the head's departure having an important effect through the income reduction associated with it, whereas for girls, changes in the household decision-maker appear to play an important role.

Suggested Citation

  • Emla Fitzsimons & Alice Mesnard, 2008. "Are boys and girls affected differently when the household head leaves for good? Evidence from school and work choices in Colombia," IFS Working Papers W08/11, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:08/11

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lorenzo Guarcello & Fabrizia Mealli & Furio Rosati, 2010. "Household vulnerability and child labor: the effect of shocks, credit rationing, and insurance," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(1), pages 169-198, January.
    2. Skoufias, Emmanual & Parker, Susan W., 2002. "Labor market shocks and their impacts on work and schooling," FCND briefs 129, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. Edmonds, Eric V., 2006. "Child labor and schooling responses to anticipated income in South Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 386-414, December.
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    5. Kathleen Beegle & Joachim De Weerdt & Stefan Dercon, 2006. "Orphanhood and the Long-Run Impact on Children," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1266-1272.
    6. Duryea, Suzanne & Lam, David & Levison, Deborah, 2007. "Effects of economic shocks on children's employment and schooling in Brazil," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 188-214, September.
    7. Paul Gertler & David I. Levine & Minnie Ames, 2004. "Schooling and Parental Death," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 211-225, February.
    8. Hoddinott, John & Haddad, Lawrence, 1995. "Does Female Income Share Influence Household Expenditures? Evidence from Cote d'Ivoire," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 57(1), pages 77-96, February.
    9. Bell, Clive & Bruhns, Ramona & Gersbach, Hans, 2006. "Economic growth, education, and AIDS in Kenya : a long-run analysis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4025, The World Bank.
    10. Beegle, Kathleen & Dehejia, Rajeev H. & Gatti, Roberta, 2006. "Child labor and agricultural shocks," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 80-96, October.
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    More about this item


    Child labour; schooling; adverse event; income loss; credit and insurance market failures; bargaining;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance

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