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Death and the African family: the impact of the AIDS epidemic 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. Deaths of adults have little impact on poor households, the survivors may even benefit slightly in economic terms. Deaths of adults aged less than 45 (many of which are from AIDS) substantially reduce income growth in non-poor households. All households except the very poor dis-save following an adult death. Fostering out children tends to improve the economic situation of both the sending households and fostered children. However, our analysis suggests 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 on who dies and on the household’s characteristics. They vary both within and between countries.

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Presented in Session 50: The AIDS epidemic: methodological advances