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Paying the Piper: The High Cost of Funerals in South Africa

Author

Listed:
  • Anne Case
  • Anu Garrib
  • Alicia Menendez
  • Analia Olgiati

Abstract

We analyze funeral arrangements following the deaths of 3,751 people who died between January 2003 and December 2005 in the Africa Centre Demographic Surveillance Area. We find that, on average, households spend the equivalent of a year's income for an adult's funeral, measured at median per capita African (Black) income. Approximately one-quarter of all individuals had some form of insurance, which helped surviving household members defray some fraction of funeral expenses. However, an equal fraction of households borrowed money to pay for the funeral. We develop a model, consistent with ethnographic work in this area, in which households respond to social pressure to bury their dead in a style consistent with the observed social status of the household and that of the deceased. Households that cannot afford a funeral commensurate with social expectations must borrow money to pay for the funeral. The model leads to empirical tests, and we find results consistent with our model of household decision-making.

Suggested Citation

  • Anne Case & Anu Garrib & Alicia Menendez & Analia Olgiati, 2008. "Paying the Piper: The High Cost of Funerals in South Africa," NBER Working Papers 14456, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14456
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Case, Anne & Deaton, Angus, 1998. "Large Cash Transfers to the Elderly in South Africa," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(450), pages 1330-1361, September.
    2. Anna McCord, 2004. "Policy Expectations and Programme Reality: The Poverty Reduction and Labour Market Impact of Two Public Works Programmes in South Africa," Working Papers 8, Economics and Statistics Analysis Unit (ESAU), Overseas Development Institute.
    3. Chinhui Juhn & Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & Belgi Turan, 2013. "HIV and fertility in Africa: first evidence from population-based surveys," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(3), pages 835-853, July.
    4. Alwyn Young, 2005. "The Gift of the Dying: The Tragedy of AIDS and the Welfare of Future African Generations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 423-466.
    5. Deaton, Angus, 1992. "Understanding Consumption," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288244.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Brown, Philip H. & Bulte, Erwin & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2011. "Positional spending and status seeking in rural China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 139-149, September.
    2. Chen, Xi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2017. "Costly Posturing: Ceremonies and Early Child Development in China," IZA Discussion Papers 10662, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. repec:kap:theord:v:84:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1007_s11238-017-9619-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Anne Case & Alicia Menendez, 2011. "Requiescat in Pace? The Consequences of High-Priced Funerals in South Africa," NBER Chapters,in: Explorations in the Economics of Aging, pages 351-373 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Omer Moav and & Zvika Neeman, 2012. "Saving Rates and Poverty: The Role of Conspicuous Consumption and Human Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(563), pages 933-956, September.
    6. Alessandro Tampieri & Elena M. Parilina, 2014. "Stability and Cooperative Solution in Stochastic Games," CREA Discussion Paper Series 14-26, Center for Research in Economic Analysis, University of Luxembourg.
    7. König, Tobias & Lausen, Tobias, 2016. "Relative consumption preferences and public provision of private goods," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Behavior SP II 2016-213, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    8. Linkow, Benjamin, 2009. "Fraying of the Ties that Bind: HIV/AIDS and Informal Contract Enforcement in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa," MPRA Paper 21769, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. repec:unu:wpaper:wp2012-70 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. König, Tobias & Lausen, Tobias, 2017. "Relative Consumption Preferences and Public Provision of Private Goods," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 18, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    11. Rik Linssen & Luuk Kempen & Gerbert Kraaykamp, 2011. "Subjective Well-being in Rural India: The Curse of Conspicuous Consumption," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 101(1), pages 57-72, March.
    12. Chen, Xi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2012. "Costly posturing: relative status, ceremonies and early child development in China:," IFPRI discussion papers 1206, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    13. Ardington, Cally & Bärnighausen, Till & Case, Anne & Menendez, Alicia, 2014. "The economic consequences of AIDS mortality in South Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 48-60.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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