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Public Policy and Extended Families: Evidence from South Africa

  • Marianne Bertrand
  • Douglas Miller
  • Sendhil Mullainathan

Tightly knit extended families, in which people often give money to and get money from relatives, characterize many developing countries. These intra-family flows mean that public policies may affect a very different group of people than the one they target. To assess the empirical importance of these effects, we study a cash pension program in South Africa that targets the elderly. Focusing on three-generation households , we use the variation in pension receipt that comes from differences in the age of the elder(s) in the households. We find a sharp drop in the labor force participation of prime-age men in these households when elder women reach 60 years old or elder mean reach 65, the respective ages for pension eligibility. We also find that the drop in labor supply diminishes with family size, as the pension money is split over more people, and with educational attainment, as the pension money becomes less significant relative to outside earnings. Other findings suggest that power within the family might play an important role: (1) labor supply drops less when the pension is received by a man rather than by a woman; (2) middle aged men (those more likely to have control in the family) reduce labor supply more than younger men; and (3) female labor supply is unaffected. These last two findings also respectively suggest that the results are unlikely to be driven by increased human capital investment or by a need to stay home to care for the elderly. As a whole, this public policy seems to have had large effects on a group-prime age men living with the old-quite different from the one it originally targeted-elderly men and women.

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Paper provided by Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section. in its series Working Papers with number 801.

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Date of creation: Sep 1999
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Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:dsp012z10wq22d
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  1. James Andreoni & Lise Vesterlund, 2001. "Which is the Fair Sex? Gender Differences in Altruism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 293-312.
  2. Chiappori, P.A., 1989. "Collective Labour Supply and Welfare," DELTA Working Papers 89-07, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  3. Lundberg, Shelly & Pollak, Robert A, 1993. "Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 988-1010, December.
  4. Imbens, G.W. & Rubin, D. & Sacerdote, B., 1999. "Estimating the effect of unearned income on labor supply, earnings, savings and consumption : Evidence from a survey of lottery players," Discussion Paper 99.34, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  5. Case, A. & Deaton, A., 1996. "Large Cash Transfers to the Elderly in South Africa," Papers 176, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
  6. Thomas, D., 1989. "Intra-Household Resource Allocation: An Inferential Approach," Papers 586, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  7. Eckel, Catherine C & Grossman, Philip J, 1998. "Are Women Less Selfish Than Men? Evidence from Dictator Experiments," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(448), pages 726-35, May.
  8. Schultz, T.P., 1990. "Testing The Neoclassical Model Of Family Labor Supply And Fertility," Papers 601, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  9. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, March.
  10. Bergstrom, Theodore C, 1989. "A Fresh Look at the Rotten Kid Theorem--and Other Household Mysteries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1138-59, October.
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