Death and the African Family: The Economic Impact of Adult Mortality in South Africa

Ian M. Timaeus, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)
Julian D. May, University of Kwazulu-Natal

Using three waves of the KwaZulu-Natal Income Dynamics Study, we examine how adult deaths affect households’ demographic composition, expenditure per capita and wealth, controlling for their initial and fixed characteristics. In 1993-1998 young adult deaths resulted in lower expenditure in poor, but not better-off, households. As the mortality of young adults rose, this pattern reversed; in 1998-2004 such deaths affected the trend in expenditure most adversely in the better-off households. Similarly, all households except the very poor saved less following an adult death. Fostering out children tends to improve the economic situation of both sending households and fostered children. However, we show that, although adult mortality and fostering are associated, this relationship is not a causal one: fostering does not usually result from demographic mishap or economic desperation. The economic implications of adult deaths depend both on who dies and on the household’s characteristics. They vary both within and between countries.

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Presented in Session 55: HIV/AIDS