Orphanhood and the long-run impact on children

Case Studies & Research
36 p.

This paper presents unique evidence that orphanhood matters in the long-run for health and education outcomes, in a region of Northwestern Tanzania, an area deeply affected by HIV-AIDS in Africa. We use a sample of non-orphans surveyed in 1991-94, who were traced and reinterviewed in 2004. A large proportion, 23 percent, lost one or more parents before the age of 15 in this period, allowing us to identify the impact of orphanhood shocks. Since a substantial proportion reaches adulthood by 2004, we can also assess permanent health and education impacts of orphanhood. In the analysis, we can control for a wide range of child and adult characteristics before orphanhood, as well as community fixed effects. We find that maternal death causes a permanent height deficit of about 2 cm (or 22 percent of one standard deviation) and a persistent impact on years of education of almost 1 year (or 25 percent of one standard deviation). We also find that paternal orphanhood has an impact on educational outcomes, but only for particular groups. We show evidence that living arrangements and whether the child was in school at the time of losing a parent strongly influence the impact of maternal and paternal death. We also illustrate the problems of inference on the impact of orphanhood if only children who remained in their baseline communities by 2004 had been reinterviewed.

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