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Black living standards in South Africa before democracy: New evidence from heights

Author

Listed:
  • Bokang Mpeta

    (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)

  • Johan Fourie

    (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)

  • Kris Inwood

    (Department of History, University of Guelph, Canada)

Abstract

Very little income or wage data was systematically recorded on the living standards of South Africa’s black majority during much of the twentieth century. This paper uses four data sets to document, for the first time, an alternative measure of living standards: the stature of black South Africans over the course of the twentieth century. We find evidence to suggest that the first three decades of the century were particularly bad, perhaps due to the increasingly repressive labour policies in urban areas and famine and land expropriation that weighted especially heavily on the Basotho. The decade following South Africa’s departure from the gold standard, a higher international gold price and the demand for manufactured goods from South Africa due to the Second World War seem to have benefited both black and white South Africans. The data also allow us to disaggregate by ethnicity within the black population group, revealing levels of inequality within race group that has been neglected in the literature. Finally, we compare black and white living standards, revealing the large and widening levels of inequality that characterised twentieth-century South Africa.

Suggested Citation

  • Bokang Mpeta & Johan Fourie & Kris Inwood, 2017. "Black living standards in South Africa before democracy: New evidence from heights," Working Papers 10/2017, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers286
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Black Living Standards in South Africa before Democracy
      by Gregori GV in NEP-HIS blog on 2018-02-01 20:52:01

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    Cited by:

    1. Fintel, Dieter von & Fourie, Johan, 2019. "The great divergence in South Africa: Population and wealth dynamics over two centuries," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 759-773.
    2. Johan Fourie & Nonso Obikili, 2019. "Decolonizing with data: The cliometric turn in African economic history," Working Papers 02/2019, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Johan Fourie, 2018. "Cliometrics in South Africa," Working Papers 14/2018, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    apartheid; living standards; South Africa; heights; anthropometric; twentieth century;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania

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