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Fifteen Years On: Household Incomes in South Africa

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  • Murray Leibbrandt
  • James Levinsohn

Abstract

This paper uses national household survey data to examine changes in real per capita incomes in South Africa between 1993 and 2008; the start and the end of the first fifteen years of post-apartheid South Africa. These data show an increase in average per capita real incomes across the distribution. Over this period growth has been shared, albeit unequally, across almost the entire spectrum of incomes. However, kernel density estimations make clear that these real income changes are not dramatic and inequality has increased. We conduct a series of semi-parametric decompositions in order to understand the role of endowments and changes in the returns to these endowments in driving these observed changes in the income distribution. This analysis highlights the positive role played by changes in endowments such as access to education and social services over the period. If these endowment changes were all that changed in South Africa over the post-apartheid period, we would have seen a pervasive rightward shift of the distribution of per capita real incomes. In the rest of the paper we explore why this did not happen.

Suggested Citation

  • Murray Leibbrandt & James Levinsohn, 2011. "Fifteen Years On: Household Incomes in South Africa," NBER Working Papers 16661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16661
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    1. Johann Kirsten & Julian May & Sheryl Hendriks & Charles L. Machethe & Cecelia Punt & Mike Lyne, 2007. "South Africa," Chapters, in: Fabrizio Bresciani & Alberto Valdés (ed.), Beyond Food Production, chapter 8, Edward Elgar Publishing.
      • Liebenberg, Frikkie & Beintema, Nienke M. & Kirsten, Johann F., 2004. "South Africa," ASTI country briefs 14, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Abhijit Banerjee & Sebastian Galiani & Jim Levinsohn & Zoë McLaren & Ingrid Woolard, 2008. "Why has unemployment risen in the New South Africa?1," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 16(4), pages 715-740, October.
    3. DiNardo, John & Fortin, Nicole M & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(5), pages 1001-1044, September.
    4. Case, Anne & Deaton, Angus, 1998. "Large Cash Transfers to the Elderly in South Africa," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(450), pages 1330-1361, September.
    5. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    6. Özler, Berk, 2007. "Not Separate, Not Equal: Poverty and Inequality in Post-apartheid South Africa," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(3), pages 487-529, April.
    7. Thomas, Duncan, 1996. "Education across Generations in South Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 330-334, May.
    8. Murray Leibbrandt & Ingrid Woolard & Arden Finn & Jonathan Argent, 2010. "Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 101, OECD Publishing.
    9. Ingrid Woolard & Murray Leibbrandt, 2010. "The Evolution and Impact of Unconditional Cash Transfers in South Africa," SALDRU Working Papers 51, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael A. Clemens, 2011. "Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 83-106, Summer.

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    JEL classification:

    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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