Requiescat in Pace? The Consequences of High Priced Funerals in South Africa
We examine the costs associated with funerals and the effects of funeral spending on household functioning, using data collected in the Agincourt Demographic Surveillance Site in South Africa. We find that large outlays of money at the time of the funeral leave households vulnerable to future hardship. Households that buried a member report lower spending per person, poorer adult affect, and lower rates of school enrollment for children than do other households. We present evidence consistent with the financial burden associated with a funeral having direct, adverse effects on households.
We have benefited from the help of the Agincourt Health and Population Unit under the leadership of Stephen Tollman and Kathy Kahn. We thank Mark Collinson and Martin Wittenberg for help in drawing a sample, Merton Dagut for survey management, Alice Muehlhof for expert data assistance, Karla Hoff for many useful conversations, Esther Duflo for helpful comments on an earlier draft, and the NIH for financial support under grants from the National Institute on Aging R01 AG20275-01, P01 AG05842-14 and P30 AG024361. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.