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The Impact of Parental Death on Child Well-Being: Evidence from the Indian Ocean Tsunami


Cas, Ava Gail; Frankenberg, Elizabeth; Suriastini, Wayan; & Thomas, Duncan (2014). The Impact of Parental Death on Child Well-Being: Evidence from the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Demography, 51(2), 437-457. PMCID: PMC4229656


Identifying the impact of parental death on the well-being of children is complicated because parental death is likely to be correlated with other, unobserved factors that affect child well-being. Population-representative longitudinal data collected in Aceh, Indonesia, before and after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami are used to identify the impact of parental deaths on the well-being of children aged 9-17 at the time of the tsunami. Exploiting the unanticipated nature of parental death resulting from the tsunami in combination with measuring well-being of the same children before and after the tsunami, models that include child fixed effects are estimated to isolate the causal effect of parental death. Comparisons are drawn between children who lost one or both parents and children whose parents survived. Shorter-term impacts on school attendance and time allocation one year after the tsunami are examined, as well as longer-term impacts on education trajectories and marriage. Shorter- and longer-term impacts are not the same. Five years after the tsunami, there are substantial deleterious impacts of the tsunami on older boys and girls, whereas the effects on younger children are more muted.


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Cas, Ava Gail
Frankenberg, Elizabeth
Suriastini, Wayan
Thomas, Duncan