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Top incomes in South Africa in the twentieth century

Author

Listed:
  • Facundo Alvaredo

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris Sciences et Lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris Sciences et Lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement)

  • A.B. Atkinson

    (INET Oxford - Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, LSE - London School of Economics and Political Science, Nuffield College - Nuffield College)

Abstract

There have been important studies of recent income inequality and of poverty in South Africa, but very little is known about the long-run trends over time. There is speculation about the extent of inequality when the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, but no hard evidence. In this paper, we provide evidence that is partial—being confined to top incomes—but which for the first time shows how the income distribution changed on a (near) annual basis from 1913 onwards. We present estimates of the shares in total income of groups such as the top 1% and the top 0.1%, covering the period from colonial times to the twenty-first century. For a number of years during the apartheid period, we have data classified by race. The estimates for recent years bear out the picture of South Africa as a highly unequal country, but allow this to be placed in historical and international context. The time series presented here will, we hope, provide the basis for detailed investigation of the impact of South African institutions and policies, past and present. But the similarity of the changes over time in top incomes across the four ex-dominions suggests that national developments have to be seen in the light of common global forces.

Suggested Citation

  • Facundo Alvaredo & A.B. Atkinson, 2022. "Top incomes in South Africa in the twentieth century," PSE-Ecole d'économie de Paris (Postprint) halshs-03324909, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:pseptp:halshs-03324909
    DOI: 10.1007/s11698-021-00235-4
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Aroop Chatterjee & Léo Czajka & Amory Gethin, 2020. "Estimating the Distribution of Household Wealth in South Africa," Working Papers hal-02876974, HAL.
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    16. A. B. Atkinson, 2005. "Top incomes in the UK over the 20th century," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(2), pages 325-343, March.
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    19. Arden Finn & Murray Leibbrandt & Ingrid Woolard, 2013. "What happened to multidimensional poverty in South Africa between 1993 and 2010?," SALDRU Working Papers 099, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
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    Cited by:

    1. Chancel, Lucas & Cogneau, Denis & Gethin, Amory & Myczkowski, Alix & Robilliard, Anne-Sophie, 2023. "Income inequality in Africa, 1990–2019: Measurement, patterns, determinants," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 163(C).
    2. Adam Aboobaker, 2022. "Macroeconomic Determinants of South Africa's Post-Apartheid Income Distribution," World Inequality Lab Working Papers halshs-03693225, HAL.
    3. Adam Aboobaker, 2022. "Macroeconomic Determinants of South Africa's Post-Apartheid Income Distribution," Working Papers halshs-03693225, HAL.
    4. Giacomo Gabbuti, 2022. "Those Who Were Better Off: Capital and Top Incomes in Fascist Italy," LEM Papers Series 2022/31, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Top incomes; South Africa; Pareto; Colonial history; Inequality;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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