Repository logo

The influence of family background on high school completion for males and females in South Africa.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



High school completion is an important transition leading on to post-secondary education and by implication into the labour market. In South Africa, a matriculation certificate- obtained at the end of secondary schooling is a prerequisite for access to diploma and degree programmes in institutions of higher learning. Several studies have also pointed to higher economic returns for people with a high school leaving certificate and more so, those with a post-secondary qualification. Hence, people who do not graduate from high school have bleak economic prospects and are likely to earn less than those who do. This study sought to explore factors that underpin the observed association between familial resources and high school completion. Specifically, the study examined whether the differences in high school completion are accounted for by family background factors such as family structure and income, while controlling for demographic factors such as age, race and, place of residence and the interaction with sex. The empirical analysis adopted a retrospective methodology and uses data from the third wave of the National Income Dynamics Study collected in 2012, a longitudinal household survey that was implemented by the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU). The sample consisted of 1821 young people aged 18, 19 and 20 who had successfully completed the interview. Acknowledging that the factors under investigation play out differently for both male and females, the inquiry further sought to interrogate the association between males and females and among males and females. Logistic regression models were fitted to estimate the likelihood of completing high school. The results illustrated that that there are many sources of variation in matric completion. Age, gender, race, residence, household income each have both an independent and joint effect on matric completion. Most notably, family structure behaved differently for the males and females. There was a strong discernible effect on matric completion for the male population for co-resident and lone parent structures, while for the females, residing with both or one parent had no advantage over non-residence with both parents. In fact, females living with one or both parents were less likely to have matric relative to those who live with neither parent.


Master of Population Studies in Development Studies. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2016.


Theses - Population Studies.