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Abstract

The issue of orphan-care has risen to the top of the social protection agenda in Malawi, where the prevalence of orphaned children has dramatically increased because of early deaths of parents infected by the HIV/AIDS. Ensuring that orphaned children are not deprived of minimum investments in education is now a policy priority. Probit models suggest that in rural Malawi, the likelihood of dropping out of school is higher for orphans than for non-orphans as grade level increases. But contrary to conventional wisdom, results suggest that orphans residing with non-parent or non-grandparents caregivers do not have higher probability of dropping out of school. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Orphans under the care of a single surviving parent or grandparents are less likely to attend school compared to those living with other relatives. This is probably due to the fact that income losses associated with the death of a parent is significantly high and the resulting increase in household poverty has a large negative impact on school enrollment or orphans who continue to live in the same household. Such a scenario is very likely in Malawi where the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS has meant that death rates among income earning young adults are especially high. It may also be due to the fact that orphans are adopted by relatively wealthier relatives who are less constrained financially.

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