Orphanhood and Schooling in South Africa: Trends in the vulnerability of orphans between 1993 and 2005

Econ Dev Cult Change. 2010 Apr;58(3):507-536. doi: 10.1086/650414.


Using 10 nationally representative surveys conducted between 1993 and 2005 we assess the extent to which the vulnerability of orphans to poorer educational outcomes has changed over time as the AIDS crisis deepens in South Africa. In line with the existing literature we find that at every point in time orphans are at risk of poorer educational outcomes with maternal deaths generally having stronger negative effects than paternal deaths. However, despite a significant increase in the number of orphans over the last decade, we find no evidence of a systematic strengthening of these negative effects. In order to understand this we explore patterns of care giving for orphans. We find that these patterns have shifted over time. While orphans are still absorbed into extended families, single orphans are increasingly less likely to live with the surviving parent and there is an increasing reliance on grandparents as caregivers. Up to this point, these changing patterns of care giving within extended families seem to have avoided further worsening in the educational outcomes for the increasing number of orphans.