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The reach of the South African Child Support Grant:
Evidence from KwaZulu-Natal

Anne Case (Princeton University),
Victoria Hosegood (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine),
Frances Lund (University of Natal, Durban)

CSDS Working Paper No 38

October 2003

ISBN No. 1-86840-513-3

Posted with permission of the authors
[Complete version - 233Kb ~ 1 min (29 pages)]     [ Share with a friend  ]


The end of apartheid in South Africa brought with it the need to reform one component of the system of social assistance for poorer people – that dealing with support to women and children. Under the old regime, a State Maintenance Grant had been awarded by government to help mothers without partners support themselves and their children. The program originally — purposefully — excluded African women and, later, when it was opened to Africans living in some parts of the country, it continued largely to exclude those living outside of urban areas. In 1996 the new government moved to reconfigure this form of support, and in April 1998 started phasing out the State Maintenance Grant, replacing it with a means-tested Child Support Grant. This was to be awarded to the primary care givers of poor children under the age of seven. (A detailed description of these reforms is presented in Lund 2002a.) In early 2002, in rural areas, if a child’s parents’ or primary care giver’s total income did not exceed R1100 per month, the primary care giver could receive a monthly amount of R110 per eligible child.

This was the first major change in the field of social policy, after apartheid. Its performance is of interest for many reasons. First, it was aimed at reversing the urban bias that had been present in most health, education and welfare programs. In addition, it introduced for the first time the notion that an adult ‘primary care giver’, as opposed to a biological parent, could be a beneficiary of a grant aimed at children. Furthermore, while the new government was initially lauded for producing visionary policies to address the legacies of apartheid, it is increasingly criticized for failures of implementation (May, 2000, summarizing findings from 13 assessments of sectoral and state institutional performance since 1994.)

In this paper, we use data collected at a demographic surveillance site in KwaZulu-Natal to address these themes. The site is in the Hlabisa district, in the northern part of the province of KwaZulu-Natal. This area is predominantly rural, is very poor, and has high rates of migration. In addition, it is bearing a heavy disease and death burden, associated with the HIV/ AIDS crisis. It is thus precisely the kind of area that the Child Support Grant is intended to reach. The Africa Centre runs a routine census in the demographic surveillance area (DSA). (See Hosegood and Timaeus 2001 for details.) In 2002, it added a module to its census, in which it asked a battery of questions about grants for each child in the approximately 11000 African households in the DSA. These data enable us to address questions such as: Who applies for a Child Support Grant? Are the awards difficult to obtain? Are boys more likely than girls to receive grants? Are grants effective in reaching poor children? Are there poor children not receiving a grant? In the context of the AIDS epidemic, our data can identify whether Child Support Grants appear to be shoring up households that have suffered from a member’s illness and death. Importantly, because our data are part of a larger, longitudinal data collection, we have a rich set of information about all children in the demographic surveillance area, their parents, and the households in which they reside, with which to evaluate the reach of the grant.

We will proceed as follows. Section 2 introduces our data and presents an overview of grant receipt in the Africa Centre DSA. Section 3 presents a more detailed look at the relationship between child and parental characteristics and grant receipt. Section 4 concludes.

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