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Sibship Size, Family Organization and Children's Education in South Africa: Black-White Variations

Abstract

Recent studies suggest that the generally observed negative sibsize-education association is much less consistent in developing nations, partly because of different cultural customs reflected in family organization. Using data from a national survey in the early 1990s and from the 1996 census, the present study assesses the effect of number of siblings on education in South Africa. In a multi-level framework, I link family arrangements to the sibship size effect on education for two major population groups with distinctive family arrangements, Whites and Blacks. A negative effect exists for Whites, who have adopted a Western nuclear family system, whereas no effect is shown for Blacks, whose family life operates under extended family organization. The study goes beyond previous efforts by explicitly testing the hypothesis that it is extended family arrangements that protect children from negative sibship size effects: results show that the absence of a negative sibship size effect is restricted to extended households; in Black nuclear and fostering families, by contrast, the negative effect holds just as it does for White families. Sensitivity tests are performed to gauge the extent to which the observed sibship size effect is contaminated by endogeneity and a confounding birth order effect. Results suggest the observed differential sibship size effect is relatively robust for Blacks, whereas for Whites it tends to be exaggerated by endogenous factors.

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