Working Paper

Orphanhood and Critical Periods in Children’s Human Capital Formation: Long-Run Evidence from North-Western Tanzania


  • Hagen
  • J.
  • Barsbai
  • T.
  • Trofimenko
  • N.
Publication Date

Losing a parent is a trauma that has consequences for human capital formation. Does it matter at what age this trauma occurs? Using longitudinal data from the Kagera region in Tanzania that span thirteen years from 1991-2004, we find considerable impact heterogeneity across age at bereavement, but less so for the death of opposite-sex parents. In terms of long-term health status as measured by body height, children who lose their same-sex parent before teenage years are hit hardest. Regarding years of formal education attained in young adulthood, boys whose fathers die before adolescence suffer the most. Maternal bereavement does not fit into this pattern as it affects educational attainment of younger and older children in a similar way. The generally strong interaction between age at parental death and sex of the late parent suggests that the preferences of the surviving parent partly protect same-sex children from orphanhood’s detrimental effects on human capital accumulation.


JEL Classification
I10, I21, J19, C23

Key Words

  • Bildung
  • child development
  • Education
  • health
  • orphans
  • Tanzania
  • timing of parental death