The Invisible Hand of African Solidarity: Fosterage and the Buffering of Inequality Among African Children

Vongai Kandiwa, Cornell University

The practice of child fosterage is widely believed to buffer educational inequalities among African children. Yet, few studies have quantified this buffering at the macro-level. While studies have estimated the prevalence and micro-level effects of fosterage, its macro –level buffering potential depends also on the direction of flows. This study complements previous research by assessing the overall directionality of fosterage flows. At issue is whether fostered children are systematically reallocated into households with smaller sibsize or higher SES. Preliminary results do show a predominantly “upward flow” whereby fostered children do in fact go into better endowed households. Yet this directionality can be upset during periods of economic difficulty. Also the upward flows are more visible in terms of family size rather than SES, a result that warrant attention to changes in the practice of fosterage during the course of on-going fertility transitions.

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Presented in Session 162: Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa