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The Role of Risk Perception in Child Mobility Decisions in West Africa, Empirical Evidence From Benin

  • January 2016
  • Journal Article
Kielland, Anne

Publication Title: World Development

Pages: 312-324

Abstract: Ethnographic research suggests that child mobility serves as a social risk management strategy for vulnerable, uninsured rural households. In line with this research, and as a supplement to previous empirical research on child mobility, this article suggests that child mobility is not only implemented as response to shocks and poverty, but also ex-ante such situations. That is, it is assumed that when households perceive themselves to be at heightened risk of critical poverty or shock, the likelihood of child-relocation increases. The hypothesis is tested by looking at the statistical association between child mobility and household head risk perception, operationalized as his or her level of worry about not being able to provide the family with food in the upcoming 12 months. Data from 2,078 households with eligible children in rural Benin, 2012, are analyzed. In 2010, Benin was struck by a massive flood that affected almost half the sampled households. In the OLS presented, child mobility is regressed on poverty, being shocked by the 2010 floods, and risk – understood as level of worry about the future food situation – and a set of socioeconomic controls. Household head risk perception is systematically associated with child mobility, while poverty and shock are not. If future risk perception indeed also predicts high-risk child relocations, then predictable social safety nets should be an adequate policy response.

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