School attendance and economic shocks: Evidence from rural Zimbabwe

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Unpredicted shocks such as weather, pests or price changes affect agricultural households negatively or positively. The shocks have two opposite effects (income and substitution) on parents’ investments in the human capital of their children, and it is not predictable from theory whether the income effect or the substitution effect of a shock has a greater impact on the investments. Therefore, it is unknown whether human capital investments (i.e. sending children to school rather than having them work) are procyclical or countercyclical. In this paper we show how hyperinflation may affect investments in the education of children by their parents using three data-sets from Zimbabwe. We find that human capital investments are countercyclical (the substitution effect dominates) in rural areas of Zimbabwe during a shock. Therefore, policymakers in Zimbabwe need to be worried about decreased schooling of children during positive shocks in the rural areas.

1402 Applied Economics, Development Studies