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The Changing Role of Child Fosterage Systems in Educational Inequality Buffering in Zambia

Vongai Kandiwa, Cornell University

Informal networks of the extended family are often viewed as reliable social safety nets that buffer educational inequalities among children in sub-Saharan Africa. However, this assumed buffering has not been formally evaluated at the macro-level. Yet such assessments are increasingly important at a time of rapid economic transitions and demographic change associated with HIV/AIDS. This paper asks the question: How effective are extended family systems in reallocating fostered children into households with better resource endowments? Using Demographic and Health Survey data, I apply a demographic index to measure the systematic flows of fostered children. Results suggest that at macro level, the extended family system has been modestly effective in channeling children into households with fewer children. However, the potential for inequality buffering depends on the overall economic environment and the micro-level dynamics within receiving households. Future analyses will cover a larger set of sub-Saharan countries where DHS data are available.

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Presented in Session 21: Fostering and orphanhood in the era of HIV/AIDS