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A reconsideration of what and who is middle class in South Africa

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  • Justin Visagie
  • Dorrit Posel

Abstract

In this paper, we revisit ‘what and who’ is middle class in South Africa using data collected in the 2008 National Income Dynamics Study. First, we consider how to identify the middle class based on two broad definitions adopted in the international economics literature: a middle class defined by the middle share of the national income distribution; and a middle class defined by an absolute level of affluence and lifestyle. We explore alternative ways of capturing the ‘middle income strata’ and we suggest an approach for identifying threshold levels of income associated with middle-class affluence. Second, we show that the size and the composition of the middle class in South Africa are both very sensitive to how the middle class is defined. In particular, we demonstrate that there is very little overlap between the two broad definitions, a finding which reflects very high levels of poverty and inequality in the country.

Suggested Citation

  • Justin Visagie & Dorrit Posel, 2013. "A reconsideration of what and who is middle class in South Africa," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(2), pages 149-167, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:deveza:v:30:y:2013:i:2:p:149-167
    DOI: 10.1080/0376835X.2013.797224
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Robert Mattes, 2014. "South Africa's Emerging Black Middle Class: A Harbinger of Political Change?," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2014-147, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. Schotte, Simone, 2017. "The Anxious and the Climbers: Ambivalent Attitudes towards Democracy among South Africa's Middle Class," GIGA Working Papers 304, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    3. Schotte, Simone & Zizzamia, Rocco & Leibbrandt, Murray, 2018. "A poverty dynamics approach to social stratification: The South African case," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 88-103.
    4. Jean-Philippe Berrou & Dominique Darbon & Christian Bouquet & Anne Bekelynck & Matthieu Clément & François Combarnous & Eric Rougier, 2018. "Le réveil des classes moyennes ivoiriennes ? Identification, caractérisation et implications pour les politiques publiques," Post-Print hal-02147840, HAL.
    5. Jean-Philippe BERROU & Dominique DARBON & Anne BEKELYNCK & Christian BOUQUET & Matthieu CLEMENT & François COMBARNOUS & Éric ROUGIER, 2018. "Le réveil des classes moyennes ivoiriennes ? Identification, caractérisation et implications pour les politiques publiques," Working Paper 6e6633ec-f96a-4f9f-a240-7, Agence française de développement.
    6. Mattes, Robert, 2014. "South Africa’s Emerging Black Middle Class: A Harbinger of Political Change?," WIDER Working Paper Series 147, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    7. Ronelle Burger & Megan Louw & Brigitte Barbara Isabel de Oliveira Pegado & Servaas van der Berg, 2015. "Understanding consumption patterns of the established and emerging South African black middle class," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(1), pages 41-56, January.
    8. De Wet, Nicole, 2019. "The association between mother's socioeconomic status and non-orphan kinship care arrangements in South Africa," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 79-86.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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