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A Lost Generation? Long Term Socioeconomic Outcomes in Orphans

71 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2010 Last revised: 23 Oct 2010

Carlos Bozzoli

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)

Date Written: October 2010


More than 2 million South African children under age 17 have lost one or both of their parents. Previous research has established that parental death has a negative effect in terms of school enrollment and grade progression, but the relation between orphanhood and socioeconomic outcomes in young adults has been largely ignored in the literature. In this paper, I use a longitudinal survey from the city of Cape Town, South Africa to evaluate two main outcomes of young adults, namely labor market attachment and fertility, and its relation to orphanhood status. The uniqueness of this dataset lies within the combination of different survey waves with a life history calendar that records schooling, work, and fertility outcomes, as well as living arrangements for every year the young adult has lived since birth. Additional information on so-called “parental investments” (time and material support), family background, and literacy and numeracy test scores are also included. These features make it a rich source of data to understand fertility and labor market attachment for young adults in light of conditions earlier in life, and specifically to test for long lasting effects associated with parental death and to identify mediating factors. I find that although preexisting parental background characteristics and literacy and numeracy skills are comparable between orphans and non-orphans, the latter are less likely to be employed (true primarily for males) or to have children (females) early in their lives. Evidence is mixed regarding whether orphans earn lower wages than non-orphans. These results suggest that orphanhood may not only alter educational achievements, but that it may also leave a long-lasting “imprint” in terms of employment and fertility patterns.

Keywords: Orphans, employment, wages, fertility, parental investments

JEL Classification: J12, J13, J22, O12

Suggested Citation

Bozzoli, Carlos, A Lost Generation? Long Term Socioeconomic Outcomes in Orphans (October 2010). DIW Berlin Discussion Paper No. 1069. Available at SSRN:

Carlos Bozzoli (Contact Author)

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) ( email )

Mohrenstraße 58
Berlin, 10117

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