Social Indicators Research

, Volume 43, Issue 1–2, pp 27–68 | Cite as

Quality of Life in South Africa: Post-Apartheid Trends

  • Valerie Møller


During the apartheid era black South Africans indicated markedly lower levels of happiness and satisfaction in all spheres of life than their white counterparts. The gap between black and white subjective well-being closed temporarily after the first universal franchise elections held on April 27, 1994 only to widen again eighteen months later. The paper presents data on subjective well-being collected during the 1980s and 1990s in four nationwide cross-sectional attitude surveys and a multipurpose household survey. Possible explanations for the shifting levels of happiness are explored. These include levels of living, income inequality, rising expectations and new anxieties experienced in the post-apartheid era.

Life satisfaction happiness social indicators racial inequality South Africa 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andrews, F. M. and A. C. McKennell: 1980, ‘Measures of self-reported wellbeing: Their affective, cognitive and other components’, Social Indicators Research 8, pp. 127–155.Google Scholar
  2. Andrews, F. M. and S. B. Withey: 1976, Social Indicators of Well-being (Plenum Press, New York).Google Scholar
  3. Brickman, P. and D. Coates: 1978, ‘Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36(8), pp. 917–927.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Central Statistical Service: 1994, Statistics in Brief 1994 (Pretoria).Google Scholar
  5. Centre for Development and Enterprise: 1995, Post-apartheid Population and Income Trends: A New Analysis (Centre for Development and Enterprise Research Report No. 1, September, Johannesburg).Google Scholar
  6. Diener, E.: 1984, ‘Subjective well-being’, Psychological Bulletin 95, pp. 542–575.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Diener, E. and C. Diener: 1995, ‘The wealth of nations revisited: Income and quality of life’, Social Indicators Research 36(3), pp. 275–286.Google Scholar
  8. Diener, E. and M. Diener: 1995, ‘Cross-cultural correlates of life satisfaction and self-esteem’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 68, pp. 653–663.Google Scholar
  9. Diener, E., E. Sandvik, L. Seidlitz and M. Diener: 1993, ‘The relationship between income and subjective well-being: Relative or absolute?’, Social Indicators Research 28, pp. 195–223.Google Scholar
  10. Diener, E., E. M. Suh, H. Smith and L. Shao: 1995, ‘National differences in reported subjective well-being: Why do they occur?’, Social Indicators Research 43(1), pp. 7–32.Google Scholar
  11. Friedman, S. and L. Stack: 1994, ‘The magic moment, the 1994 election’, in S. Friedman and D. Atkinson (eds.), South African Review 7: The Small Miracle (Raven Press, Johannesburg, South Africa).Google Scholar
  12. Giliomee, H. and L. Schlemmer (eds.): 1985, Up against the Fences: Poverty, Passes and Privilege in South Africa (David Philip, Cape Town).Google Scholar
  13. Lance, C. E., A. G. Mallard and A. C. Michalos: 1995, ‘Tests of the causal directions of global-life facet satisfaction relationships’, Social Indicators Research 34(1), pp. 69–92.Google Scholar
  14. Hanf, Th., H. Weiland and G. Vierdag: 1981, South Africa: The Prospects of Peaceful Change (Rex Collings, London).Google Scholar
  15. Headey, B., R. Andorka and P. Krause: 1995, ‘Political legitimacy versus economic imperatives in system transformation: Hungary and East Germany 1990–93’, Social Indicators Research 36(3), pp. 247–273.Google Scholar
  16. Headey, B., R. Veenhoven and A. Wearing: 1991, ‘Top-down versus bottom-up theories of subjective well-being’, Social Indicators Research 24, pp. 81–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Headey, B. and A. Wearing: 1988, ‘The sense of relative superiority to well-being’, Social Indicators Research 20, pp. 497–518.Google Scholar
  18. Johnson, R. W. and L. Schlemmer (eds.): 1996, Launching Democracy in South Africa (Yale University Press, New Haven).Google Scholar
  19. Market Research Africa: 1995a, Urban Black Household Report (Johannesburg, South Africa).Google Scholar
  20. Market Research Africa: 1995b, ‘RDP index’, Research for Action, 205, p. 1.Google Scholar
  21. May, J., M. Carter and D. Posel: 1995, The Composition and Persistence of Poverty in Rural South Africa: An Entitlements Approach (Land and Agricultural Policy Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa).Google Scholar
  22. Michalos, A.: 1991, Global Report in Student Well-being. Vol 1: Life Satisfaction and Happiness (Springer-Verlag, New York).Google Scholar
  23. Ministry in the Office of the President: 1995, Key Indicators of Poverty in South Africa (South African Communication Service, Pretoria).Google Scholar
  24. Møller, V.: 1988, ‘The relevance of personal domain satisfaction for the quality of life in South Africa’, South African Journal of Psychology 18(3), pp. 69–75.Google Scholar
  25. Møller, V.: 1989, ‘Can't get no satisfaction: Quality of life in the 1980s’, Indicator South Africa 7(1), pp. 43–46.Google Scholar
  26. Møller, V.: 1992, ‘A place in the sun: Quality of life in South Africa’, Indicator South Africa 9(4), pp. 101–108.Google Scholar
  27. Møller, V.: 1994, ‘Post-election euphoria’, Indicator South Africa 12(1), pp. 27–32.Google Scholar
  28. Møller, V.: 1995, ‘Waiting for utopia: Quality of life in the 1990s’, Indicator South Africa 13(1), pp. 47–54.Google Scholar
  29. Møller, V.: 1996a, ‘Life satisfaction and expectations of the future in a sample of university students: a research note’, South African Journal of Sociology 27(1), pp. 16–26.Google Scholar
  30. Møller, V.: 1996b, ‘Household satisfaction: Past, present and future perspectives’, Development Southern Africa 13(2), pp. 237–254.Google Scholar
  31. Møller, V. and Th. Hanf: 1995, Learning to Vote (Indicator Press, Durban, South Africa).Google Scholar
  32. Møller, V. and L. Schlemmer: 1983, ‘Quality of life in South Africa: Towards an instrument for the assessment of quality of life and basic needs’, Social Indicators Research 12, pp. 225–279.Google Scholar
  33. Møller, V. and L. Schlemmer: 1989, ‘Quality of life in South Africa: A research note’, Social Indicators Research 21(3), pp. 279–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Møller, V., L. Schlemmer and S. H. C. Du Toit: 1987, Quality of Life in South Africa: Measurement and Analysis (Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa).Google Scholar
  35. South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR): 1983, Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1982 (Johannesburg).Google Scholar
  36. South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR): 1984, Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1983 (Johannesburg).Google Scholar
  37. South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR): 1989, Survey of Race Relations in South Africa (SAIRR) 1988/89 (Johannesburg).Google Scholar
  38. South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR): 1995, Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1994/95 (Johannesburg).Google Scholar
  39. South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR): 1996, Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1995/96 (Johannesburg).Google Scholar
  40. Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (Saldru): 1994, South Africans Rich and Poor: Baseline Household Statistics (School of Economics, University of Cape Town).Google Scholar
  41. Stones, M. J., T. Hadjistavropoulos, H. Tuuko and A. Kozma: 1995, ‘Happiness has traitlike and statelike properties: A reply to Veenhoven’, Social Indicators Research 36(2), pp. 129–144.Google Scholar
  42. Tosterud, R. J.: 1996, ‘Rural entrepreneurship: Measuring the magnitude of the challenge’, Indicator South Africa 13(2), pp. 35–39.Google Scholar
  43. Veenhoven, R.: 1984, Conditions of Happiness (D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht).Google Scholar
  44. Veenhoven, R.: 1991, ‘Is happiness relative?’, Social Indicators Research 24, pp. 1–34.Google Scholar
  45. Veenhoven, R.: 1994, ‘Is happiness a trait? Tests of the theory that a better society does not make people any happier’, Social Indicators Research 32, pp. 101–160.Google Scholar
  46. Veenhoven, R.: 1995, ‘The cross-national patterns of happiness. Test of predictions implied in three theories of happiness’, Social Indicators Research 34, pp. 33–68.Google Scholar
  47. Veenhoven, R.: 1996, ‘Developments in satisfaction-research’, Social Indicators Research 37(1), pp. 1–46.Google Scholar
  48. Whiteford, A. and M. McGrath: 1994, Distribution of income in South Africa (Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria).Google Scholar
  49. Whiteford, A., D. Posel and T. Kelatwang: 1995, A Profile of Poverty, Inequality and Human Development (Human Sciences Research Council Pretoria, South Africa).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valerie Møller
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Natal, CCDSDurbanSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations