A poverty dynamics approach to social stratification: The South African case

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dc.contributor.author Schotte, Simone
dc.contributor.author Zizzamia, Rocco
dc.contributor.author Leibbrandt, Murray
dc.date.accessioned 2018-06-08T08:58:00Z
dc.date.available 2018-06-08T08:58:00Z
dc.date.issued 2018-05
dc.identifier.citation Simone Schotte, Rocco Zizzamia, Murray Leibbrandt, A poverty dynamics approach to social stratification: The South African case, World Development, Volume 110, October 2018, Pages 88-103, ISSN 0305-750X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.05.024 en_US
dc.identifier.issn 0305-750X
dc.identifier.uri https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.05.024
dc.description.abstract The wave of upbeat stories on the developing world’s emerging middle class has reinvigorated a debate on how social class in general and the middle class in particular ought to be defined and measured. In the economics literature, most scholars agree that being middle class entails being free from poverty, which means being able to afford the basic things in life – not only today, but also tomorrow. In consequence, there is an increasing tendency to define the middle class based on a lack of vulnerability to poverty. In this paper, we strengthen and expand on these existing approaches in three ways: First, we incorporate the differentiation between the middle class and a (non-poor) vulnerable group into a broader social-stratification schema that additionally differentiates between transient and chronic poverty. Second, in estimating the risk of poverty, we employ a multivariate regression model that explicitly allows for possible feedback effects from past poverty experiences and accounts for the potential endogeneity of initial conditions, unobserved heterogeneity, and non-random panel attrition – four factors insufficiently addressed in existing studies. Third, we highlight the value of paying attention to these conceptual and modelling issues by showing that class divisions based on monetary thresholds inadequately capture a household’s chances of upward and downward mobility. We then apply our conceptual framework to the South African case. We find that only one in four South Africans can be considered stably middle class or elite. Access to stable labor market income is a key determinant of achieving economic stability. A lack of jobs as well as the prevalence of precarious forms of work drive high levels of vulnerability, which in turn constrains the development of an emergent middle class – not only in South Africa but potentially also in other parts of the developing world that face similar labor market challenges. en_US
dc.description.sponsorship This paper has been produced with financial assistance from the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD), located within the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), and from the World Bank Group, Poverty Global Practice Unit, Africa Region. Simone Schotte acknowledges support from the German Institute of Global and Area Studies and the Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst. Murray Leibbrandt acknowledges the Research Chairs Initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation for funding his work as the Chair in Poverty and Inequality Research. The authors are grateful to Francois Bourguignon, Denis Cogneau, Arden Finn, Lena Giesbert, Kanishka Kacker, Stephan Klasen, Jann Lay, Nga Thi Viet Nguyen, Victor Sulla, Martin Wittenberg, Ingrid Woolard, Precious Zikhali and three anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.publisher World Development en_US
dc.subject South Africa en_US
dc.subject Social stratification en_US
dc.subject Middle class en_US
dc.subject Poverty dynamics en_US
dc.subject Vulnerability to poverty en_US
dc.title A poverty dynamics approach to social stratification: The South African case en_US
dc.type Article en_US

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