Orphans and vulnerable children: Direct effects, spillover effects, and assistance

This thesis examines the schooling impacts of parent death for orphans in Africa as well as for children in households that take in those orphans. The thesis also evaluates the impact of an intervention to facilitate education for vulnerable children in Africa. The thesis is divided into three chapters. In chapter one, I estimate the impact of parent death on primary school participation using an unusual five-year panel data set of over 20,000 Kenyan children. There is a substantial decrease in school participation following a parent death, and a smaller drop before the death (presumably due to pre-death morbidity). Estimated impacts are smaller in specifications without individual fixed effects, suggesting that estimates based on cross-sectional data are biased toward zero. Effects are largest for children whose mothers died, and those with low baseline academic performance. In chapter two, I first characterize households that provide care for orphans using a collection of 41 Demographic and Health Surveys from 26 African countries. I then estimate the impact of taking in orphans on outcomes for other household residents, including children’s health and education. One finding is that orphan care is concentrated in households with fewer other childcare responsibilities, especially elderly households. Using bias-corrected matching estimation, sibling differences within households, instrumental variables estimation, and a range of specifications, I find no evidence for significant effects of having an orphan join the household on other household members, contrary to popular views that orphans generate negative spillovers. In chapter three, I evaluate the impact of an educational intervention, in which a Kenyan non-governmental organization distributes school uniforms to children in poor communities. The NGO used a lottery to determine who would receive uniforms. Although compliance with the lottery was not perfect, I use winning the lottery as an instrumental variable to identify the impact of receiving a uniform. I find that giving a school uniform significantly increases school attendance (by 4.5% off a base of 83%), with a particularly marked effect for girls.

Citation: Evans, D. K. (2005). Orphans and vulnerable children: Direct effects, spillover effects, and assistance. United States — Massachusetts, Harvard University.

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