Family Support


South Africa provides a unique setting for analyzing the interaction between public programmes and private transfers in an environment of rapid social change. Post-apartheid South Africa is a society undergoing a combination of rapidly expanding opportunities for the non-white population, combined with enormous challenges. With a severe unemployment problem and the rapid growth of the HIV/AIDs pandemic, rapid social change has not relieved the stresses of day-to-day survival faced by many South African families. Given the combination of high unemployment, the impact of HIV/AIDS on the working age population and a welfare policy that is dominated by an extensive state old-age pension policy, family support structures in South Africa are unusually complex. For many poor households, major resources flow into families from the elderly, while working age adults and children are often net consumers of resources.


This project brought together researchers from the United States and South Africa to analyze patterns of family support and intergenerational transfers in South Africa. In examining these dynamics, the project proposed to use a combination of existing survey data and new data to be collected in the Cape Area Panel Study (CAPS). In addition, dissemination of the CAPS data was an important aim of the project, as all members of the collaborating team had a strong commitment to public release.


CAPS data was used to look at a variety of outcomes for young people, including sexual activity, pregnancy, schooling transitions, employment transitions, and intergenerational transfers. The project also used a number of other South African data sets to analyze these and related issues. 20 papers and 5 book chapters were published out of the project, with another 25 papers presented at conferences and/or under review. As can be seen from the list of publications in the Output and Publications section, a large number of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members at UCT, Michigan, and Princeton wrote papers supported by the project.

In addition, the CAPS dataset was successfully continued and expanded, including the addition of new content focusing on intergenerational support systems. Moreover, considerable project resources were devoted to the preparation of user-friendly public files that are distributed through the CAPS website. Public launches of CAPS data with user workshops have been held at the University of Cape Town and CAPS data sets were distributed through exhibits at the 2007 and 2008 meetings of the Population Association of America. There are over 500 registered users of CAPS, representing a wide range of countries and institutions.

The Cape Area Panel Study

CAPS is a longitudinal survey of young people and their extended family networks in Cape Town. The first wave was designed and implemented with support from a previous NICHD grant, “Families, Communities, and Youth Outcomes in South Africa” (R01-HD39788, P.I. David Lam), a collaboration between the University of Michigan and the University of Cape Town. When the funding application was submitted we planned to conduct a second wave of CAPS in 2005, three years after Wave 1. Because we were able to secure additional funding from sources such as the Mellon Foundation and a supplement from the NIH Office of AIDS Research, we were able to interview 1/3 of the sample in 2003 and the remaining 2/3 of the sample in 2004. The 2003 interview included special modules related to sexual activity and HIV/AIDS, while the 2004 interview included special modules related to youth labor market activity. The 2003 and 2004 surveys are collectively considered CAPS Wave 2. We conducted a full re-interview of all young CAPS respondents in 2005 (Wave 3). As proposed in the funding application for this project, we added a great deal of content related to private intergenerational transfers, public transfers (such as the Old Age Pension and Child Support Grant), and major household events such as illness, death, and job loss.

Wave 4 was not in the original plans for the current project and funding was not adequate to conduct another wave in 2006. Wave 4 resulted from a very fruitful integration of the current NICHD project with a project supported by the National Institute on Aging (R01-AG-20275, “Poverty, Inequality and Health in Economic Development”) under the leadership of Anne Case from Princeton University. Both projects looked at intergenerational support in South Africa, with the NICHD project focusing on the perspective of young people and the NIA project focusing on the perspective of older people. We decided that an integrated survey asking parallel questions about intergenerational support to both young and old respondents would be extremely useful. Combing resources from the two grants we were able to conduct a complete an additional wave of CAPS, interviewing all young respondents for the fourth time while adding new interviews of all individuals aged 50 and over who lived in CAPS households at the 2002 baseline survey.