Demographic challenges facing the elderly in sub-Saharan Africa

David Lam, University of Michigan
Rebecca L. Thornton, University of Michigan
Laura Zimmermann, University of Michigan

This paper analyzes the situation of the elderly in a large number of sub-Saharan African countries. The paper uses data from two sources – IPUMS-International census microdata on over 1.9 million individuals aged 60 and over from 23 censuses for 12 countries and Demographic and Health Survey data from 79 surveys for 34 countries. We find large differences in living arrangements across countries. The percentage of elderly women living alone varies from 2% in Senegal to over 15% in Kenya. The percentage of elderly in “skip-generation” households ranges from 2% in Senegal to 26% in Malawi. The paper analyzes the characteristics of elderly who care for orphaned grandchildren. We hypothesize that they are positively selected on a number of characteristics, helping explain the fact that studies of the impact of caregiving often find little or no apparent negative impact on the elderly from caring for orphaned grandchildren.

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Presented in Session 62: National policies, intergenerational transfers, and the wellbeing of the elderly