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Flexibility of Household Structure: Child Fostering Decisions in Burkina Faso

From: Journal of Human Resources
Volume 44, Number 4, Fall 2009
pp. 976-997 | 10.1353/jhr.2009.0011



Using data I collected in Africa, this paper examines a household's decision to adjust its size through child fostering, an institution where biological parents temporarily send children to live with other families. Households experiencing negative idiosyncratic income shocks, child gender imbalances, located further from primary schools, or with more "good" quality network members (fewer subsistence farmers and unmarried individuals and more educated members) are significantly more likely to send a child. Results reject an overall symmetric fostering model across senders and receivers, but evidence of symmetry is found when the test is restricted to exogenous income shocks and gender imbalances.