Working-Age Adult Mortality, Orphan Status, and Child Schooling in Rural Mozambique

November 4, 2011 - Author: <>

IDWP 117. David Mather. 2011. Working-Age Adult Mortality, Orphan Status, and Child Schooling in Rural Mozambique

There is growing concern that the AIDS epidemic may reduce long-term human capital
development through reductions in child schooling, thus severely limiting the long-term
ability of orphans and their extended families to escape poverty. This concern has led to an
empirical debate regarding whether to target orphans or poor children (or both) with
schooling subsidies. This paper contributes to this on-going debate by using a large panel
dataset from 2002-2005 from rural Mozambique to measure the impact of working-age (WA)
adult mortality, morbidity and orphan status on child primary schooling.

The results demonstrate that, for rural Mozambique, a homogenous conceptualization of WA
adult mortality and morbidity shocks are not by themselves a reliable indicator of poor child
schooling outcomes, but rather depend upon the pre-death wealth level of the household and
the gender of the deceased or ill adult. For example, a WA male death within the past three
years reduces attendance of children from poor households by 21%, while the presence of
chronically ill WA male adult in the household reduces attendance by 25%. While negative
mortality effects are more often found from male deaths, we do find that a recent WA female
death reduces school advancement by 10% among children from poor households and
reduces attendance by 21% for children from less poor households. These results are
consistent with other research using this panel dataset that found that significant reductions in
household size, income, and assets are more likely found in the event of a WA male death
rather than a WA female death (Mather and Donovan 2007). One potential explanation for
the gender differential in mortality impacts is that on average, three out of four households
with a WA female death are able to attract a new WA adult to the household, whereas, on
average, no households with a WA male death are able to attract new adults (ibid. 2007).

The results also indicate that negative effects of WA mortality/morbidity shocks are more
likely to occur for children from poorer households, which suggests that the opportunity costs
of children in such households become high during the illness or following the death of a WA
adult. Yet, the fact that we also find some significant negative effects of adult mortality
among children from less poor households, as well as significant negative schooling effects
for orphans from less poor households, suggests that even those Mozambican households in
the top half of the distribution of rural household income per adult equivalent adjust to
mortality/morbidity shocks by reducing child schooling. This may be due to the fact that
quite a few of these ‘less poor’ households are technically at or below the rural poverty line
(i.e., while they are relatively wealthier than other rural households are, they are not wealthy
enough to be able to withstand a mortality/morbidity shock without having to reduce child

Analysis of the effects of orphan status on child schooling finds 12% lower attendance for
maternal orphans from poor households (relative to non-orphans from poor households), 17%
lower attendance for paternal orphans from less poor households, and 28% lower attendance
for double-orphans from both poor and less poor households. Analysis also finds slower
school advancement among maternal orphans (especially girls), paternal orphans from less
poor households, and double-orphan boys from less poor households. Both the attendance
and school advancement analyses find lower schooling among female maternal orphans.
These results suggest that maternal orphans from poorer households and double-orphans are
likely to have lower schooling on average, relative to non-orphans. They also suggest that
paternal orphans in less poor households are also not immune from lower schooling.

The analysis does not evidence of systematic bias against boys or girls in how households
that suffer a WA death or illness respond to this shock. Nevertheless, girls in rural
Mozambique continue to face schooling bias in that they are less likely to attend school: 62%
of girls age 10-18 in 2005 yet to complete primary school attended school in 2005 compared
with 70% of boys.

There are several policy implications from these results. First, because the extent to which
children’s schooling outcomes are affected by adult mortality or morbidity is specific to the
gender of the child, the household’s wealth level, characteristics of the deceased or ill adult,
and the timing of the adult death, it is inappropriate to categorize all children in Mozambique
who are directly or indirectly affected by HIV/AIDS-related morbidity and mortality as being
especially vulnerable and in need of targeted school subsidies. The results demonstrate that
social protection and education policymakers concerned with primary school underenrollment
in Mozambique need to tailor mitigation measures to the specific needs and
situation of children in rural Mozambique. The evidence in this paper suggests that both boys
and girls from households with either a recently deceased WA male adult or a currently ill
male adult – especially those from poorer households – are most likely to face losses in
school attendance and advancement. Mitigation measures appropriate for rural Mozambique
may, therefore, include conditional cash transfers targeted to children that have incurred these
mortality/morbidity shocks.

Third, although Mozambique abolished primary school fees in 2005, there may still be
barriers to enrollment such as continued household demand for child labor, additional
educational expenses for transport, school uniforms and books, and declining school quality
if enrollment outpaces new school construction and teacher hiring. These additional barriers
to enrollment may explain why we have found evidence of negative effects of adult mortality
and morbidity on child schooling, even in a time period after the government had abolished
primary school fees. In addition, targeted schooling subsidies alone may not reduce schooling
deficits of some orphans, in the event that their poor schooling progress is due to the
emotional and psychological trauma of losing one or both parents or a lack of interest by their
adult guardians in their schooling. This may help explain why we found evidence of
schooling deficits among orphans in both poor and non-poor households.

Fourth, Mozambique should continue to provide universal free primary schooling, as this
policy has been found in a number of countries to improve the enrollment and schooling
progress of those children most likely to suffer from poor schooling – namely children from
poorer households, both orphan and non-orphan alike. For example, evidence from Malawi
and Uganda suggest that improvements in enrollments among the poor through universal
abolition of primary school fees can substantially raise the enrollment of orphans, even to the
point of eradicating orphan schooling deficits (Ainsworth and Filmer 2006). Finally, it
should be noted that because of the well-established positive correlation between educational
attainment and safer sexual behavior (World Bank 1999), Education for All is itself an
important policy that can help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.


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