Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Children at Risk: The role of family structure in Latin America and West Africa

Desai, Sonalde (1992): Children at Risk: The role of family structure in Latin America and West Africa. Published in: Population and Development Review , Vol. 18, : pp. 689-717.

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Models of the family proposed by the "new household economics" have had a strong influence on researchers and policymakers alike. In extending these models to developing countries, however, relatively little attention has been directed to the applicability of some of their underlying assumptions in diverse cultural settings. Two aspects of these models seem particularly problematic: the assumption of a cohesive family unit with perfect altruism within the family, and lack of consideration of flexible boundaries of the household observed in many cultures. Using data on the nutritional status of children in northeast Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic in Latin America, and in Ghana, Mali, and Senegal in West Africa, this article examines the importance of these two issues in predicting the level of resources available to children. Although parents care about the welfare of their children, their level of altruism varies across different types of families and seems to depend on culturally acceptable practices.

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