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Orphanhood, Poverty, and School Enrollment

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Jun 27, 2006
, Martha Ainsworth and
Deon Filmer

 

Children in developing countries are losing their parents to AIDS, war, and other tragedies. How likely are they to be less educated? A recent study examines parental survival, poverty, and school enrollment to answer the question of whether orphan status is a good predictor of lower enrollment in poor countries.

 

Children in developing countries are losing their parents to AIDS, war, and other tragedies, with potentially dramatic social and economic consequences. Concerns that orphans will acquire less education, thus worsening their own life chances, are several: school-aged children who have lost one or both parents may not be able to afford the costs of schooling; they may be needed for economic activities; or their guardians may simply invest less in their welfare.[ 1] These concerns have prompted calls for governments to subsidize the schooling of orphans.[ 2]

 

To the extent that orphans drop out of school, they swell the ranks of an already large group of poor out-of-school children—over 103 million primary school-aged children were not in school in 2001.[3]

 

Underenrollment of orphans relative to other children

 

A multicountry study examined the extent to which orphans are underenrolled, and whether it is because they are poorer or because of another disadvantage linked to being an orphan.[4] The study uses 102 nationally representative household surveys conducted since 1990 from 51 developing countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia.[5] The sample includes countries with high and low HIV prevalence and orphan rates to ensure that conclusions are not being derived from only the hardest hit countries. Orphans are defined as children 7 to 14 years of age who have lost one or both parents for any reason.

 

The analysis explores the extent to which orphans are underenrolled relative to children with living parents through multivariate regression that controls for other determinants of enrollment—the child’s age and sex, his/her household’s economic status, urban residence, and geographic region. The regressions distinguish between paternal, maternal, or two-parent orphans, as well as children whose orphan status is unknown. In these data sets, most orphans had lost either their father (3-16 percent) or mother (1-7 percent). Only 1.4 percent of children, on average, had lost both parents.

Enrollment among two-parent orphans is typically lower

 

Figure 1 compares enrollment among children with two parents living (horizontal axis) to children who have lost one or both parents (vertical axis). Each point represents findings from a single country. A point along the 45-degree line indicates enrollment rates that are equal for orphans and nonorphans, after controlling for other factors, including poverty. A point below the 45-degree line represents a data set in which orphans enrollment is lower than nonorphans. Differences that are statistically significant are indicated in blue.

 

In most data sets, the difference in enrollment between paternal orphans or maternal orphans and nonorphans, once other factors are controlled for, is not statistically significant. In 38 percent of the data sets paternal orphans enrollment is lower than nonorphans and in 46 percent of the data sets maternal orphans enrollment is lower than nonorphans, and the difference is statistically significant. For two-parent orphans, more than one-half of the data sets (58 percent) showed a statistically significant enrollment deficit compared to nonorphans, while for the remaining 42 percent there was no statistically significant difference.[6]

 

 Figure 1. Enrollment of orphans and nonorphans ages 7 to 14
 Filmer Orphans Figure 1

Note: Graphs show predicted enrollment after controlling for sex, age, urban/rural residence, household economic status, and geographic region. Blue points indicate that the difference between orphans and nonorphans is significantly different from zero at the 5 percent level.
Source: Martha Ainsworth and Deon Filmer, “Inequalities in Children’s Schooling: AIDS, Orphanhood, Poverty, and Gender,” World Development 34 (6): 1099-1128, 2006.

 

The size of the orphan enrollment gap is dwarfed by the gap in enrollment between children at the bottom and top of the income distribution

 

Figure 2 compares the enrollment gap between orphans and nonorphans (the vertical axis) with the enrollment gap between children from the richest and poorest 20 percent of the population (the horizontal axis). In almost all cases, the gap between rich and poor is statistically significantly larger than that between orphans and nonorphans (points in blue)—and substantially larger in magnitude.

 

Figure 2. Enrollment gap between orphans and nonorphans and between rich and poor
 Filmer orphans Fig. 2

Note: Graphs show differences in predicted enrollment between orphans and nonorphans; and between children from the poorest and richest economic status quintiles after controlling for sex, age, urban/rural residence, and geographic region. Blue points indicate that the difference between the orphan differential and the economic status differential is significantly different from zero at the 5 percent level.
Source: Martha Ainsworth and Deon Filmer, “Inequalities in Children’s Schooling: AIDS, Orphanhood, Poverty, and Gender,” World Development 34 (6): 1099-1128, 2006.

The experience of countries hardest-hit by HIV/AIDS cannot be generalized to all countries

The impact of being an orphan on enrollment depends on many country-specific factors, including the overall poverty rate, the socioeconomic status of households that experience adult mortality, customs and demographic factors like child fostering and the extended family, the demand for schooling, and public policies already in place. The diversity in these underlying conditions is reflected in the diversity in the relation between orphan status and enrollment shortfalls : policy responses need to do the same—reflect local realities.

 

In most countries, orphan status alone may not be a good targeting criterion for subsidies for school fees, text books, and uniforms. When enrollment gaps remain after controlling for economic status, purely economic interventions (such as subsidies for orphans’ school fees or uniforms) may not be effective in reducing this gap—and risk transferring funds to orphans who might otherwise already be enrolled. Moreover, if benefits channeled to orphans are things that other children or household members lack orphans could be redistributed. Indeed, in Africa there is a strong tradition of redistributing children across households through child fostering.[7] A concentration of orphans in some households could possibly have adverse consequences. But interventions linked solely to the special needs of orphans (for example, psychosocial counseling or health services for HIV-infected children) are unlikely to create incentives for opportunistic responses by households, as the benefits are not easily shared or needed by other household members.

 

 

In countries like Bolivia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Peru, overall enrollment rates are relatively high, even among the poor. Persistently lower enrollment of orphans suggests problems specific to being an orphan, some of which may not be school- or income-related. The reasons for persistent orphan enrollment gaps, where they occur, need to be carefully investigated.       

 

The much larger gaps in enrollment between poor and nonpoor children found in most countries suggest that the key to raising enrollment among orphans is likely to involve policies to raise enrollment among poor children generally, including poor orphans. The experience of the Dominican Republic, Malawi, and Uganda, which increased their moderate overall enrollment rates, shows that increases in income or policies to raise enrollments among the poor can substantially raise the enrollment of poor orphans.

 

Key knowledge gaps

 

If researchers and policymakers focus exclusively on enrollment differentials among orphans—after a parental death—they may be neglecting large schooling impacts before a parental death, impacts that could be mitigated through short-term support to households with a terminally ill adult. Three recent studies using longitudinal data examine this very issue for Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa, three countries hard-hit by HIV/AIDS.[8] Documenting these dynamic impacts in varied settings is a priority for research.

 

Primary school enrollment is a necessary but not sufficient condition for learning. This multicountry study was not able to explore delayed enrollment, completion rates, and the determinants of learning outcomes for orphans, the poor, and poor orphans—a high priority for research.

 

There is little rigorous impact evaluation of alternative measures that mitigate the welfare impacts of orphanhood on children. Establishing which interventions work, and under what conditions, is a key knowledge gap—another research priority.


The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this brief are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the view of the World Bank, its Executive Directors, or the countries they represent.


DEON FILMER is a Senior Economist in the Development Research Group. He was core team member of the World Development Report 2004: Making Services Work for Poor People. His research focuses on analyzing inequalities in human development outcomes, on the impact of policies and programs aimed at promoting transparancy and accountability in service delivery, and how the behavior of individuals, households, and providers interact with public policy in the determination of health and education outcomes. Email c/o: research@worldbank.org


MARTHA AINSWORTH is Lead Economist and Coordinator for Education and Health Evaluation in the Independent Evaluation Group of the World Bank. Following service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chad, she has worked for over two decades in the World Bank with the research group, the Africa region, and the evaluation department. She co-authored the Policy Research Report 1997: Confronting AIDS: Public Priorities in a Global Epidemic. Her current work focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of policies and programs to improve health and education outcomes, and to prevent and mitigate the impacts of HIV/AIDS. Email c/o:
mainsworth@worldbank.org

 

Related Resources

References

 

[ 1] Geoff Foster and John Williamson, “A review of current literature on the impact of HIV/AIDS on children in sub-Saharan Africa,” AIDS 14 (3), S275-S284, 2000; Erick Otieno Nyambedha, Simiyu Wandibba, and Jens Aagaard-Hansen, “Policy implications of the inadequate support systems for orphans in Western Kenya,” Health Policy 58(1): 83-96, 2001; U.S. Agency for International Development, Children on the Brink, Washington, D.C., 2000.

 

[2] Kalanidhi Subbarao and Diane Coury, “Reaching out to Africa’s orphans: A framework for public action,” Africa Region Human Development Series No. 30119, World Bank, Washington, D.C. , 2004;U.S. Agency for International Development, Children on the Brink, Washington, D.C. 2000; World Bank, “Education and AIDS: A window of hope,” Human Development Network Report No. 24059, Washington, D.C: World Bank, 2002.

 

[ 3] Of the 103 million unenrolled school-aged children, 36 million live in Asia and 40 million live in Sub-Saharan Africa. UNESCO, Education for all monitoring report 2005: The quality imperative, Paris: UNESCO, 2005.

 

[ 4] This web article is based on a recently published article by Martha Ainsworth and Deon Filmer, “Inequalities in Children’s Schooling: AIDS, Orphanhood, Poverty, and Gender,” World Development 34(6): 1099-1128, 2006 (Based on Policy Research Working Paper 2885, 2002). Earlier studies can be found in Martha Ainsworth, Kathleen Beegle, and Godlike Koda, “The impact of adult mortality and parental deaths on primary schooling in North-western Tanzania,” Journal of Development Studies 41: 412-439, 2005; Paul Bennel, “The impact of the AIDS epidemic on the schooling of orphans and other directly affected children in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Journal of Development Studies 41: 467-488, 2005; George Bicego, Shea Rutstein, and Kiersten Johnson, “Dimensions of the emerging orphan crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Social Science and Medicine 56: 1235-1247, 2002; David Bishai, El Daw Suliman, Heena Brahmbhatt, Fred Wabwire-Mangen, Godfrey Kogozi, Nelson Seankambo, David Serwadda, Maria Wawer, and Ron Gray, “Does biological relatedness affect survival?” Demographic Research 8(9): 262-277, 2003; Anne Case and Cally Ardington, “The impact of parental death on school enrollment and achievement: Longitudinal evidence from South Africa,” Princeton University and University of Cape Town, processed, 2004; Ann Case, Christina Paxson, and Joseph Ableidinger, “Orphans in Africa: Parental death, poverty, and school enrollment, “ Demography 41(3): 483-508, 2004; David Evans and Ted Miguel, “Orphans and Schooling in Africa: A longitudinal analysis,” Harvard University and University of California, Berkeley, processed, 2004; Paul Gertler, David I. Levine, and Minnie Ames, “Schooling and parental death,” Review of Economics and Statistics 86(1): 211-225, 2004; C. B. Lloyd and A. K. Blanc, “Children’s schooling in Sub-Saharan Africa: The role of fathers, mothers, and others,” Population and Development Review 22(2): 265-298, 1996.

 

[ 5] These are typically Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), UNICEF’s End-of-Decade Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS2), or Integrated Household Surveys.

 

[ 6] Because the number of two-parent orphans was often very small, analysis was restricted to 92 data sets.

 

[ 7] Ainsworth, Martha, “Economic aspects of child fostering in Côte d’Ivoire,” in T. Paul Schultz, ed., Research in Population Economics 8, Greenwich, CT : JAI Press, 1996.

 

[ 8] Martha Ainsworth, Kathleen Beegle, and Godlike Koda, “The impact of adult mortality and parental deaths on primary schooling in North-western Tanzania,” Journal of Development Studies 41: 412-439, 2005; Anne Case, Christina Paxson, and Joseph Ableidinger, “Orphans in Africa: Parental death, poverty, and school enrollment,” Demography 41(3): 483-508, 2004; David Evans and Ted Miguel, “Orphans and schooling in Africa: A longitudinal analysis,” Harvard University and University of California, Berkeley, processed, 2004.




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