Child Indicators Research

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 945–969 | Cite as

The Dynamics of Child Poverty in South Africa Between 2008 and 2012

  • Marisa von FintelEmail author
  • Asmus Zoch
  • Servaas van der Berg


Children have been shown to be one of the most economically vulnerable groups within the South African context. We examine and decompose the dynamics of child poverty in South Africa over the period 2008–2012 in order to arrive at a better understanding of the nature and causes of child poverty, and specifically persistent poverty over time. We use the framework of an asset poverty line first developed by Carter and May (World Development, 29(12), 1987–2006, 2001) and longitudinal data from the National Income Dynamics Study in order to identify those children in households that are in structural poverty with an asset base which is too low to escape poverty in the long run. We find that almost 40 % of the children in our sample found themselves in this structural poverty trap between 2008 and 2012. As expected, these children have suffered as a result of this deprivation, even in comparison to their peers who have also been poor over the period, but were living in households with access to more assets. We conduct some preliminary investigations into the potential causes of welfare changes over time. In line with previous work on the topic, we identify low initial levels of education, low asset-holdings, low initial employment and adverse household formation as possible causes of these poverty traps.


Poverty measurement Poverty dynamics Children South Africa 



This work originated from a project conducted for the South African Human Rights Commission on behalf of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in South Africa. The authors would like to acknowledge funding and input from UNICEF South Africa. The authors would like to thank Alejandro Grinspun for his input and comments, as well as participants at the 5th Conference of the International Society for Child Indicators held on 2–4 September 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marisa von Fintel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Asmus Zoch
    • 1
  • Servaas van der Berg
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa

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