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The influence of female headship on schooling

Pearl Kyei, Population Council

In Sub-Saharan Africa, female headship surprisingly tends to have a positive association with children’s schooling although female-headed households have lower socio-economic status than male-headed ones. This paper explores the pathways through which female headship influences educational outcomes – schooling progress, achievement and aspirations – using data on Black households in metropolitan Cape Town. I hypothesize that supplementary economic resources, non-monetary support from social networks and child-oriented allocation of household resources are the primary explanations. The results indicate that external transfers to female-headed households allow them to compensate somewhat for their economic disadvantage relative to male-headed households. Social support, from extended family in particular, accounts for most of the education differences between female- and male-headed households. Adolescents in female-headed households are also more likely to have characteristics that promote achievement such as self-efficacy and extracurricular activity suggesting female household heads are better able to nurture such beneficial traits in children.

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Presented in Session 92: Gender roles in African families