Female Headed Households Fhhs Sociology Essay

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Female Headed Households are largely associated with deprivation and poverty. Though this assertion is contested by some scholars, there is the general consensus that FHHs face obvious limits in accessing productive assets, credit, health care and agricultural services (Buvinic and Gupta, 1997). However, scholars also recognise that among FHHs, poverty is experienced differently, hence lumping them together, as done in most literatures does not paint the right picture of these differences. Two FHHs are identified in the literature – de facto and de jure FHHs (Youssef & Hetler, 1982). Among them, it’s been observed that de facto FHHs are likely to have more resources hence a better standard of life relative to their de jure counterparts. Invariably, these differences translate into different educational opportunities for the children who are located in either of these households. This study is therefore designed to examine how location in a particular FHH affects children’s educational experiences.

1.1. Background to the Study

A growing trend of female-headed households (FHHs) households has been observed in many parts of world, particularly Africa. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD, 1999) and other authors have noted this to be the result of several factors including, male migration, death of males through natural causes, civil conflicts and wars, un-partnered adolescent fertility, family disruption, divorce and separations (IFAD, 1999; Joshi, 2004; Kabeer, 2003; Zhan & Sherraden, 2003). IFAD undertook a study in eastern and southern Africa where it was found that an estimated 25-60% of rural households in that region were headed by women. Though this range is too wide for comparison, making desegregation difficult, a similar situation has been observed by the Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS, 2008). According to the GLSS (2008), the “proportion of FHHS is higher in urban areas outside of Accra (35.1%), rural coastal (34.3%) and rural forest (31.2%) than in Accra (28.1%) and rural savannah (14.9%)” (2008, p 5).

Some empirical studies show that FHHs are poorer, relative to male-headed households (MHH) (see e.g. Buvinic and Gupta, 1997; Rajaram, 2009, Zhan & Sherraden, 2003). According to IFAD (1999), poverty among FHHs results from women’s limited access to land, livestock, other assets, and credit, education, health care and extension services. Buvinic and Gupta (1997) have also argued that woman’s lower average earnings, access to remunerative jobs, and productive resources such as land and capital contribute to their economic vulnerability and hence the vulnerability of the households they head.

However, there is another school of thought that argues that female-headship does not correlate with poverty (see e.g. Dreze & Srinivasan, 1997; Senada & Sergio, 2007), and is in fact empowering for women in the long run (Buvinic & Gupta, 1997; United Nation, 2005). According to the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, female-headship give women the opportunity to develop their decision-making skills as well the skills needed to coordinate the full social and economic responsibility for the well-being of household members (cited in United Nations, 2005). The survey acknowledged that these skills, coupled with the assumption of male-related task are empowering experiences for women. Moreover, in the IFAD study quoted above, its household budget surveys revealed that rural FHHs are no poorer, and may in fact be less poor, than MHHs.

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Among FHHs however, there is evidence to support the fact that poverty differ from one household to the other (Fuwa, 2000; Kabeer, 2003), indicating that these households are not homogenous in nature (Joshi, 2004). For instance, Fuwa (2000) found in Panama that women who head households as a result of widowhood or being unmarried were significantly more disadvantaged in income and non-income measures. Recognizing two types of FHHs – de jure and de facto FHHs – enables some differentiation in poverty experiences. It can be argued that de facto FHHs are generally better off than de jure FHHs in both income and non-income dimensions (Fuwa, 2000; Kabeer, 2003). De jure FHHs results from unmarried adolescents, widowed, divorced or separated women whiles de facto FHHs results from the migration of the male spouse (essentially, the women in de facto FHHs are married but do not reside with their spouses).

The World Survey on the Role of Women in Development emphasized that female headship is empowering. However, it was actually found that it is de facto FHHs that empowers females and not de jure FHHs. Furthermore, findings from studies in Kenya and Zambia argue that the best predictor of whether FHHs is or is not likely to be poor is whether the female head does or does not receive support from a current partner, husband or adult son (IFAD, 1999) or any other economic provider other than themselves. The above arguments illustrate conflicting evidence on the status of FHHs relative to MHHs but the general analysis points to the fact that FHHs are at a relative disadvantage on the poverty scale. Among FHHs however, evidence points out that de facto FHHs are better off than their de jure counterparts.

The correlation between family’s economic resources to a child’s well-being have earlier been established by Becker and Tomes (1986) and Becker (1991, 1993). These authors argued that when “capital markets are perfect, altruistic parents borrow to maximize the net incomes (earnings less debt) of children” whiles in imperfect capital markets – mostly developing countries’ markets- “parents may need to either forsake their own consumption, liquidate some assets, or choose among children. Moreover, expenditures on children’s education will depend not only on the children’s endowments and public expenditure, but also on parental income, parental preferences for child schooling and the abilities of their children” (cited in Joshi, 2004, p 4-5).

It stands then to reason that the more financial resources a family has, the more secured and provided for the children will be and consequently, this will spill over to their academic performance. As a matter of fact, other evidence corroborates this stance. For instance, an 18 years longitudinal study in Detroit Metropolis revealed a positive relationship between income/assets and ward’s school completion (Duane et al, 1984; Hill and Duncan, 1987). In addition, a study done by Joshi (2004) in Bangladesh revealed that children from de facto FHHs had stronger schooling attainments than children in de jure FHHs. Moreover, he found that children from de jure FHHs had a greater propensity to work outside the home. Based on these empirical finding, this study will assess how children’s educational attainment in Ghana are affected by the kind of female-headed household they find themselves in.

1.2 Problem Statement

There is overwhelming empirical evidence which suggest that relative to men, women are disadvantaged in their access to assets, credit, employment, and education, a situation which makes them more vulnerable and hence less able to invest in the education of their children (Joshi, 2004, citing Folbre, 1991; UNDP, 1995; United Nations, 1996; World Bank, 2001). This assertion was further corroborated by Zhan and Sherraden (2003) who found that mother’s wealth and expectations of child’s educational achievement and child’s actual educational outcomes were positively correlated in FHHs. Kyei (2008), citing Ashiabi (2000) minced no words when she asserted that children from poorer households in sub-Saharan Africa have lower educational attainment. This observation has a sobering implication for schooling in Ghana, where despite the government’s Free Compulsory and Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) system, parents are still required to make substantial contribution towards their ward’s education. Some of these contributions come in the form of PTA dues, uniforms, books and supplies, transport, food and lodging and sometimes extra tuition fees (Lloyd and Gage-Brandon, 1996). Although several studies have been done to compare female and non-female headed households, not many have been conducted to compare the academic attainment within the two types of FHHs (Richards and Schmiege 1993). This study therefore seeks to fill this void in literature by comparing children’s pre-tertiary academic achievement of de jure and de facto FHHs in Ghana, using data from the Tema Metropolis in this pursuit.

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1.3 Objectives of the research

The main objective of the study is to examine if children’s academic experiences are affected by the particular FHHs they are located.

The specific objectives will be:

Examine whether location within a particular FHH affects children’s retention and completion of school.

Investigate how location within a particular FHH affects the quality of education children receive.

Ascertain how factors such as female heads’ educational attainment, asset holding/landed properties and type of financial support affect children’s educational experiences.

1.4 Hypothesis

HO: Children located in de jure FHHs are less likely to complete their pre-tertiary education than children from de facto FHHs

HA: Children located in de jure FHHs are not less likely (thus equally likely or more likely) to complete their pre-tertiary education than children from de facto FHHs.

HO: Mothers education is more likely to be associated with lower pressures for children to work.

HA: Mothers education is not less likely (thus equally likely or more likely) to be associated with lower pressure for children to work.

1.5 Significance of the Study

The global increase in FHHs makes this study very essential. This is especially so when one notes that failure to solve it leads to associated negative effects or social problems such as streetism, spread of HIV, violence, homicide, suicide among others. This study will especially highlight the differential disadvantages of the two major FHHs, in the light of children’s pre-tertiary academic attainments. This study will especially highlight the differential disadvantages of the two major FHHs, thereby adding to the literature on households and female poverty and children’s pre-tertiary academic attainments.

1.6 Organisation of the Study

The study is organized into five chapters. Chapter One introduces the study – stating the problem to be studied, the objectives as well as the hypothesis for the study. Chapter Two provides a critical review of the existing literature on the subject matter of the study. Chapter Three discusses the methodology employed in this study. It will emphasize the procedure in undertaking this study as well as the method of data analysis used. Chapter Four is presented in two sections. Part I presents the findings of the study. Part II analyzes and discusses the empirical results. Chapter Five summarizes and concludes the study.



2.0 Introduction

In this review, attempt will be made to critically assess various publications on the subject of FHHs, with a special focus on the two types they are – de facto and de jure FHHs. The bulk of the review will center on how children’s education are affected or facilitated by virtue of the FHHs they are situated in. in addition, the theories that underlie the subject matter will be reviewed, leading to the specifying of the theoretical framework of the study. Finally, some empirical studies, especially Bodenhorn’s (2006) in the US and Gurmu and Etana’s (2013) in Ethiopia will be reviewed

2.1 Definitions of Female-Headed Households

There are multiplicities of meanings associated with the term ”household head”. Fuwa (2000) observed that the multiplicity and near ambiguity associated with the term came about principally because demographers (interviewers) classified people as household heads as a need of survey implementation, i.e., avoid double-counting by classifying a reference person as household head, against whom all the relationship in the home is identified, and not necessary for any analytical purposes. Similarly, Hedman et al posited that the term ”head of household” is used to cover a number of different concepts referring to the chief economic provider, the chief decision maker, the person designated by other members as the head, etc.” (1996:64). Accordingly, the author observed that even where the definition of the term has been relatively adequate, criteria used by interviewers to arrive at their definition are often vague and leave room for subjective interpretation.

However, before the term “household head” can be understood, we have to define the term “household”. Similar to “household head”, there is the general belief that the term “household” is abused. Individual researchers are not alone in their criticism of the rampantly ambiguous use of the term ”household”. Other bilateral organizations, notably the World Bank, also observed that the conception of the term poses challenges in its definition (Rosenhouse, 1989: p 4). In the light of these ambiguities, the Department of International Economic and Social Affairs. (1988) suggested the use of the term ”household reference person”, rather than the household head.

In Ghana, one often cited definition of the term is the one given by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) in its Population and Housing Census (GSS, 2012). The report defines a household as “a person or group of persons who live together in the same house or compound, share same house keeping arrangement and are catered for as one unit”. This definition will form the working definition of “household” in this study.

Budlender (1997) noted that interest in the definition of households arose out of perceived economic, nutritional, educational and health differences between homes headed by males/females, males and females. According to Buijs and Atherfold (1995)there is the need to desegregate families headed by males and females as it is “directly related to some of the major economic and policy issues confronting developing countries today” (p 1) which will ultimately facilitate those households as “objects of targeted welfare assistance under programmes concerned with the social dimensions of adjustment” O’Laughlin (1996:2).

Similar to the definitions of the household, Hossain and Huda (1995) observed that terms used in defining women households may carry different meaning. Buvinic and Youssef (1978) also posited that households described as “female-headed” cover a wide range of situations ranging from the absence (for a variety of reasons) of a resident male head to the presence of a male who no longer has, or never had, a function of being the principal economic provider (cited in Machado, 1992).

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Researchers have classified FHH into two broad categories (Hossain & Huda, 1995; Javed & Asif, 2011; Machado, 1992; Youssef & Hetler, 1978). De jure FHHs are those which do not count on or receive the economic support of a male partner, whereas de facto FHHs are those in which the male partner is absent for some periods or his contribution is marginal (Machado, 1992). Hossain and Huda (1995) also defines de jure household head a permanent head of a particular household while a de facto household head refers to that head of a household who is temporarily taking care of the household (usually acting as a head in absence of the actual head of the household). The underlying assumption in these definitions is that in the FHH, the woman is the main decision maker and in most cases the main economic provider for the household.

2.2 Female Headed Households and Poverty

It is generally accepted that women constitute a greater number of the poor. Among the poor, however, FHHs are considered the poorest (Bradshaw and Linneker, 2003; MOWAC, 2004; UNRISD, 2010). Though this perception has been challenged in several academic treatise (for instance Chant, 2003; Chant 2009) the fact that women and especially female heads of households are considered relatively vulnerable has been embraced by bilateral, multilateral organizations/donors and national policy makers – leading to a concept generally referred to as “feminization of poverty” (Bradshaw & Linneker, 2003).

Commenting on the feminization of poverty, Bradshaw and Linneker (2003) explained that poverty among women can be understood from a multi-dimensional and multi-sectorial perspective and added that “women experience poverty in different ways, at different times and in different social spaces – the society, the community and the household” (p 9). According to Chant (2003), female household headship is more prone to arise in “situations of economic stress, privation and insecurity, through migration, conjugal instability and/or the inability of impoverished kin groups to assume responsibility for abandoned women” (p 6). Bradshaw and Linneker (2003) alluded similar causes when they emphasized that women are poor because of their preoccupation with reproductive (as against productive) activities, the patriarchal ordering of society and the altruistic nature of women which naturally inform their choice of productive activities and allocation of resources. Chant (2003) added that women’s lack of training or education, discrimination in the workplace and inadequate provision for parenting by employers as some of the factors that exacerbate the situation of female heads of households, reinforcing their poverty situation.

The opinion of FHHs as the ‘poorest of the poor’ is founded on a critical examination of complete household earnings, with the conclusion that their earnings are relatively lower than MHH or Couple-Headed Households (CHHs) (Bradshaw & Linneker, 2003; Chant, 2003). Additionally Chant, citing Fuwa (2005), IFAD (1999), ILO (1996) and UNDAW (1991) states that FHHs are relatively poorer than CHH because they lack a “breadwinning partner or an adult male wage earner. Additionally, female heads have the added responsibility of fulfilling several household necessities with their already insufficient funds, such as the offsetting of academic fees and other academic needs.

Possibly one author who has effectively connected female-headship, poverty and educational outcomes is Bodenhorn (2007). He detected that “children raised in mother-only households are more likely to underachieve academically, to drop out of school, to become single parents themselves, to have lower labor-market attachment, and to engage in criminal activity as young adults than children raised in two-parent households” (p 33). The findings of his study will be discussed further in the review.

2.3 The role of Remittances in De facto FHH

The relationship between migration and remittances is well known, almost routinized. Wiafe recognized this relationship when he indicated that “Emigration is a precondition for remittances to come about” (p 23). Adams and Page (2003) define remittances as portion of migrants’ earnings sent from the migration destination to family members or a community back home. They further explained that remittances are usually monetary and other cash transfers but can also be in kind (cited in Wiafe, 2008). Centering more on internal migration, Owusu (2005) defined remittances as “the flow of cash (money) and gifts, referred to as remittances or transfers, between rural and urban” (p 200-201).

The United Nations (2002) estimates that more than 170 million people from developing nations live outside their home countries, sending back more than $80 billion in the early 2000s (cited in Lu and Treiman, 2011). This estimate is modest when one considers Ratha’s (2009). According to him, in 2008, global remittances reached a whopping $330 billion. Similarly, Maimbo (2003) observed that remittances to developing countries far exceed Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) which comes with stringent conditionalities (cited From Wiafe, 2008). Indeed, the potential of remittances have been noted by the IMF and other bilateral institutions (Wiafe, 2008).

However, it must be emphasized that remittances cover everything from individual, firm, formal and informal remittances, most of which does not fall under the preview of this study. The interest of this study is on individual remittances, which mostly move from husbands, family members who remit money to help their relatives back at home. Arguing along those lines, Russell et al (1990) concluded that remittances do not only satisfy subsistence needs, but also aid investments in children’s education, rearing of livestock, farming activities as well as development in small scale enterprise.

Though migration is one major cause of FHHs (de facto FHHs), it’s is also recognized as a huge source of funding for these households, ultimately lifting such households out of poverty. Lu and Treiman (2002) argue that while marital dissolution is the predominant cause of FHHs in the developed world, migration is the major culprit in the developing world. In fact, Lu and Treiman (2011) were blunt in their assertion that FHHs usually benefit from remittances. However, the author did not desegregate which type of FHHs benefit most from remittances. However, from his argument, it can be inferred de facto FHH are a bigger beneficiary of remittances from de jure FHHs. According to Bryant, approximately 15-30% of children in Africa, Asia and Latin America live in households with at least one migrant parent (cited in Lu and Treiman, 2011), further confirming the fact that de facto FHHs are those who benefit most from migration. The author further noted that having one or both parents away for work has thus become a common experience of childhood in many parts of the world. However, despite the economic benefit generated through remittances, McLanahan and Sandefur (994) were quick to point out that children in single-parent house-holds fare less well than their peers who live with both parents (cited from Lu and Treiman. 2011). Again, the focus is on de facto and not de jure FHHs

2.4 The Influence of Family Structure on Children’s Academic Experiences

The previous chapter has traced and established that one disruption to the family structure is migration, of which the de facto FHHs are the major beneficiaries. This disruption has consequences – positive as well as negative, which has been traced as well. In fact, empirical evidence shows that family disruption, which occurs as a result of divorce, death and migration (parental absence) leads to decreased access to physical and social capital, with a rippling effect on educational attainments (Lu and Treiman, 2011). Unfortunately, the trend, especially with respect to migration which leads to greater number of de facto FHH, is observed to be increasing, feeding into the general increase in FHHs.

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Duncan and Brooks-Gunn (1997) also observed that the effect of parental absence does not just reflect on educational attainment but might also have such far reaching effects on a child’s cognitive development, physical and psychological well-being. According to Lu and Treiman (2011), “children whose families experience divorce are more likely to drop out of high school, complete fewer years of education, and have lower grades in school”. The author further cite empirical evidence to support that educational outcomes of children from single-mother homes are relatively worse that educational outcomes of children from single-father households. This affirms that though family disruption has its consequences, it is not uniform for all family types that suffer the disruption. It could be quite devastating for some, not-so-devastating for some and very devastating for others. However, the fact still stands that family disruption affect children’s education deleteriously. This observation was buttressed by McLanahan and Sandefur (994) when they emphasized that children in single-parent house-holds (either single-mother or single-father households) fare less well than their peers who live with both parents.

Conducted studies also reveal the adverse effects of marital breakdown in developing countries. However these findings have not followed a steady approach as divorce in these parts of the world is not comparatively rampant and the family unit is rather intricate. (Buchmann and Hannum 2001). A lot of research has rather been devoted to how these intricate family units affect scholarly achievements. It has been observed that better academic opportunities await children living in female headed households in some African nations because it is more probable for these households to devote resources to their children. (Lloyd and Blanc 1996). Other researchers have acquainted themselves with examining the extent to which family units (measurable by sibship size and make-up) affect the devotion of academic resources within their set ups (Gomes 1984). Also, the subject of earlier research involves the role of members of the extended family, especially the contribution of grandparents in enhancing the upbringing of children and causing these children to identify with their extended family. (Buchmann and Hannum 2001).

Academic writings dwelling on academic achievements of children who grow up in resource-deficient homes have observed the input of academic resources. These findings prove that children from wealthier households attend school more and climb up the educational ladder better, (Behrman and Knowles 1997). Furthermore, since education is usually perceived as the preserve for boys in these social environments, girls are relatively disadvantaged because education is often regarded as an extravagance.

2.5 The Influence of Household Head on Children’s Academic Experiences

Parents represent a very crucial factor in the education of children. Their actions or inactions determine whether children go to school or not. Similarly, their presence or absence determines to a large extent what resources are available for children’s education, the choice of the quality of education offered and supervision and hence the general outcomes of educational endeavours. The UNESCO confirmed this when it concluded based on findings in its 2011 Global Monitoring in Yemen, Burundi, Syria, Serbia and Mongolia that patterns of literacy in the general populace are strongly related to wealth and household location.

Consequently, whether ones parents are alive or dead can have a correlation to school enrolment and success in children’s education. According to Gurmu and Etana (2013) the loss of parents – either one or both – represents another channel through which the pattern of allocation of household’s resources influences investment in children’s education. The author however noted that such a loss has far greater or lesser consequences when other factors such as the sex of the child or that of the surviving parent are factored. Particularly, on the sex of the surviving parent, Gertler, Levine, and Ames (2004) noted that the death of a mother could have a greater effect on children (cited from Gurmu and Etana, 2004). However, other studies, such as those of Lloyd and Blac (1996) dispute such a relationship, rather arguing that there is no systematic relationship involved in the sex of parent that survives and children’s education.

Weir (2010), however found results that confirms that children who are situated within FHH have a clear advantage in school enrolment, relative to children in MHH, implicitly confirming Gertler, Levine, and Ames’s (2004) findings. However, I must point out that the researcher did not state whether the MHH implies the presence of a female partner, in which he should have called those households CHHs. Weir (2010) argued that children in FHHs are likely to go to school because of the limited opportunity costs of children’s schooling due to female household heads’ lack of access to productive assets. Again, these findings were disputed by Rose and Al-Samarrai (2001) who rather asserted that there is less likelihood in school enrolment of children situated in FHHs, relative to those from MHHs. Clearly, therefore, empirical evidence is not conclusive as to who has the advantage – whether it is children whose mothers have died or children whose fathers have died. Neither is the literature evidence conclusive as to whether it is children in FHHs or those in MHHs who have the advantage in school enrolment and success in their educational pursuit.

In another twist to the argument, empirical evidence shows that change in the family structure does not have as much impact on children education as much as employment status and level of education of the household head (McKerman & Ratcliffe, 2002; Iceland, 2003; OECD, 2001; Lichter & Crowley, 2003). Ozawa, Sun-Hee and Myungkook (2009) citing Lichter and Crowley (2003) summed that increase in maternal employment from 1996 to 1999 accounted for 50% decline in child poverty, whereas the change in family structure accounted for a meager 7% of the decline. Similarly, McKerman & Ratcliffe (2002) observed a 65.2% probability of exiting poverty through employment whiles that of marriage was 48.2%, with a consequential relationship to children’s education. OECD’s (2001) did a cross-country study that lent a greater credence to this empirical position when they also observed that entry into and exit from poverty were more strongly affected by changes in employment status than by changes in family structure. Ozawa and Lee (n.d.) also argued that “higher level of education of the household heads tends to be positively related to the economic conditions of FHHs” (cited in Ozawa, Lee & Wang, 2007).

The finding does not however, discount family structure as other findings, such as that of Rainwater and Smeeding (1995) runs contrary to it. According to these researchers, family structure very much explains whether a child lives in poverty or not. Specifically, they noted that children in single-parent families are 5.5 times more likely to live in poverty and hence dropout of school relative to children from two-parent families. Similarly, Bodenhorn (2007) asserts that children living in FHHs are more likely to start school later and quit school earlier than children and youths from CHHs. The argument on employment and educational consideration rather tries to remind researchers that one’s location within a particular household is not the only factor that impact on children’s education. Equal attention should be focused on other factors. In fact, it is obvious from McKerman & Ratcliffe (2002) study that though employment has a greater effect than family structure, the difference of only 17% cannot be said to be very significant.

2.6 Models that Explain Children’s Education Experiences

Scholars have tried to explain the various underpinnings that influence children’s schooling. These could be termed the theoretical perspectives that explain the multiplicity of factors determining whether a child schools or not. This section will explain three of those theoretical perspectives – the Human Capital Model, the Family-Economy hypothesis and the Siblings’ Resource-Dilution Hypothesis.

2.6.1 Human Capital Model

The Human Capital Model was developed by Becker and Tomes (1986) as a framework to analyze school enrolment. The theory holds that the resolution of parents to educate their wards is largely dependent on the desired expectations of educating these children as well as the amount of expenditure that will be incurred in having them educated. (Morduch 2000; Pal 2004). Becker and Tomes (1986) explains that parents have altruistic love for their children but the decision to invest in their education is “on the consideration of maximization of resources and redistribution among family members based on their preferences” (cited in Gurmu and Etana, 2013, p8). Accordingly, different socio-economic as well as demographic consider

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