Parental Loss and Schooling: Evidence from Metropolitan Cape Town
This paper makes use of the Cape Area Panel study (CAPS), a longitudinal study of youth and their families in metropolitan Cape Town in order to broaden the empirical body of evidence of the causal impact of parental death on children’s schooling in South Africa in two dimensions. First, analysis of CAPS allows us to examine the extent to which results may generalize across geographically and socioeconomically distinct areas. Second, CAPS allows for an explicit exploration of whether the causal impact lessens as time since the parental death lengthens. Evidence from the CAPS is consistent with that from a large demographic surveillance site in rural KwaZulu-Natal in supporting the findings that mother’s deaths have a causal impact on children’s schooling outcomes and that there is no evidence of a causal effect of paternal loss on schooling for African children. The loss of a father has a significant negative impact on the education of coloured children but a significant amount of this impact is driven by socioeconomic status. We exploit the longitudinal data to investigate the extent to which orphan disadvantage precedes parental death and whether orphans begin to recover in the period following a parent’s death or whether they continue to fall behind. We find no evidence of orphan recovery in the period following their parent’s death and results suggest that negative impacts increase with the time since the parent died. The longer-run impact of parental death in childhood is also evident in an analysis of the completion of secondary schooling by early adulthood. These results suggest that parental death will reduce the ultimate human capital attainment of the child.
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