, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 483-508

Orphans in Africa: parental death, poverty, and school enrollment

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We examine the impact of orphanhood on children’s school enrollment in 10 sub-Saharan African countries. Although poorer children in Africa are less likely to attend school, the lower enrollment of orphans is not accounted for solely by their poverty. We find that orphans are less likely to be enrolled than are nonorphans with whom they live. Consistent with Hamilton’s rule, the theory that the closeness of biological ties governs altruistic behavior, outcomes for orphans depend on the relatedness of orphans to their household heads. The lower enrollment of orphans is largely explained by the greater tendency of orphans to live with distant relatives or unrelated caregivers.

We thank Angus Deaton, Duncan Thomas, Susan Watkins, participants in a seminar at Princeton University and at the 2003 BREAD conference, and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments. Thu Vu provided excellent research assistance. This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (AG20275-01).