Volume 37 - Article 59 | Pages 1891–1916  

Household structure vs. composition: Understanding gendered effects on educational progress in rural South Africa

By Sangeetha Madhavan, Tyler W. Myroniuk, Randall Kuhn, Mark Collinson


Background: Demographers have long been interested in the relationship between living arrangements and gendered outcomes for children in sub-Saharan Africa. Most research conflates household structure with composition and has revealed little about the pathways that link these components to gendered outcomes.

Objective: We offer a conceptual approach that differentiates structure from composition with a focus on gendered processes that operate in the household in rural South Africa.

Methods: We use data from the 2002 round of the Agincourt Health and Socio-Demographic Surveillance System. Our analytical sample includes 22,997 children aged 6‒18 who were neither parents themselves nor lived with a partner or partner’s family. We employ ordinary least squares regression models to examine the effects of structure and composition on educational progress of girls and boys.

Results: Non-nuclear structures are associated with similar negative effects for both boys and girls compared to children growing up in nuclear households. However, the presence of other kin in the absence of one or both parents results in gendered effects favouring boys.

Conclusions: The absence of any gendered effects when using a household structure typology suggests that secular changes to attitudes about gender equity trump any specific gendered processes stemming from particular configurations. On the other hand, gendered effects that appear when one or both parents are absent show that traditional gender norms and/or resource constraints continue to favour boys.

Contribution: We have shown the value of unpacking household structure to better understand how gender norms and gendered resource allocations are linked to an important outcome for children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

The implications of long term community involvement for the production and circulation of population knowledge
Volume 17 - Article 13

The dynamic role of household structure on under-5 mortality in southern and eastern sub-Saharan Africa
Volume 49 - Article 11

“One hand does not bring up a child:” Child fostering among single mothers in Nairobi slums
Volume 46 - Article 30

Marital dissolutions and changes in mental health: Evidence from rural Malawi
Volume 44 - Article 41

Measuring extended families over time in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya: Retention and data consistency in a two-round survey
Volume 38 - Article 44

Shocks and migration in Malawi
Volume 38 - Article 14

Decomposing changes in household measures: Household size and services in South Africa, 1994–2012
Volume 37 - Article 39

Human capital on the move: Education as a determinant of internal migration in selected INDEPTH surveillance populations in Africa
Volume 34 - Article 30

Working with teams of "insiders": Qualitative approaches to data collection in the Global South
Volume 32 - Article 12

The age pattern of increases in mortality affected by HIV: Bayesian fit of the Heligman-Pollard Model to data from the Agincourt HDSS field site in rural northeast South Africa
Volume 29 - Article 39

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Are highly educated partners really more gender egalitarian? A couple-level analysis of social class differentials in attitudes and behaviors
Volume 50 - Article 34    | Keywords: attitudes, couple analysis, education, educational level, gender, gender roles, housework, social class differentials

The influence of parental cancer on the mental health of children and young adults: Evidence from Norwegian register data on healthcare consultations
Volume 50 - Article 27    | Keywords: cancer, children, fixed effects, longitudinal, mental health, parents registers

The importance of education for understanding variability of dementia onset in the United States
Volume 50 - Article 26    | Keywords: dementia, education, lifespan variability, modal age, morbidity compression

Measuring the educational gradient of period fertility in 28 European countries: A new approach based on parity-specific fertility estimates
Volume 49 - Article 34    | Keywords: education, Europe, period fertility, quantum, tempo, total fertility rate (TFR)

A Bayesian model for the reconstruction of education- and age-specific fertility rates: An application to African and Latin American countries
Volume 49 - Article 31    | Keywords: age, Bayesian analysis, education, fertility estimation, fertility rates