Anticipatory Child Fostering and Household Economic Stability in Malawi

Lauren Bachan, Pennsylvania State University

Child fostering is practiced throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa and is often used by families to offset economic risk and insecurities. While there is a rich literature on the practice of child fostering, we have a limited understanding of how absorbing a foster child impacts a household. The AIDS epidemic in the region has added new complexities to the practice of child fostering, making it more imperative to understand the relationship between fostering and household outcomes. Using data from 1,959 respondents enrolled in a longitudinal survey in Malawi, this paper empirically explores the relationship between receiving a foster child and changes in household socioeconomic status (SES) over a two-year period of time. Placing particular emphasis on the role of anticipation, the results show that households that correctly anticipate care giving responsibilities experience a greater increase in SES than both those who do not foster and those that foster by surprise.

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Presented in Session 171: Families in International Perspective