NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Paying the Piper: The High Cost of Funerals in South Africa

Anne Case, Anu Garrib, Alicia Menendez, Analia Olgiati

NBER Working Paper No. 14456
Issued in October 2008
NBER Program(s):   AG

We analyze funeral arrangements following the deaths of 3,751 people who died between January 2003 and December 2005 in the Africa Centre Demographic Surveillance Area. We find that, on average, households spend the equivalent of a year's income for an adult's funeral, measured at median per capita African (Black) income. Approximately one-quarter of all individuals had some form of insurance, which helped surviving household members defray some fraction of funeral expenses. However, an equal fraction of households borrowed money to pay for the funeral. We develop a model, consistent with ethnographic work in this area, in which households respond to social pressure to bury their dead in a style consistent with the observed social status of the household and that of the deceased. Households that cannot afford a funeral commensurate with social expectations must borrow money to pay for the funeral. The model leads to empirical tests, and we find results consistent with our model of household decision-making.

download in pdf format
   (157 K)

email paper

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

This paper is available as PDF (157 K) or via email.

Acknowledgments

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14456

Published: Anne Case & Anu Garrib & Alicia Menendez & Analia Olgiati, 2013. "Paying the Piper: The High Cost of Funerals in South Africa," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 62(1), pages 1 - 20.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Case and Menendez w14998 Requiescat in Pace? The Consequences of High Priced Funerals in South Africa
Case and Menendez Requiescat in Pace? The Consequences of High-Priced Funerals in South Africa
Goldstein and Razin w11047 Foreign Direct Investment vs. Foreiegn Portfolio Investment
Duflo Comment on "Requiescat in Pace? The Consequences of High Priced Funerals in South Africa"
Banerjee, Galiani, Levinsohn, McLaren, and Woolard w13167 Why Has Unemployment Risen in the New South Africa
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us