The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 921–942 | Cite as

Poverty and Ethnicity among Black South Africans

  • Carlos Gradin
Original Article


This article investigated inequalities across the major black ethnic groups in South Africa, accounting for 80 per cent of the country’s population. We have demonstrated that there is an important ethnic gap in the poverty levels and flows of the Xhosa and the Zulu with respect to the Sotho/Tswana. We have also shown that these gaps are largely associated with the former groups having an accumulation of disadvantages in location, demographic structure, education and labour market outcomes. The analysis of the evolution that occurred after the end of apartheid shows that the gap might have increased, especially in the case of the Zulu.


poverty ethnicity South Africa Xhosa Zulu Sotho/Tswana 


Cet article s’intéresse aux inégalités entre les principales ethnies noires en Afrique du Sud, qui regroupent 80 per cent de la population du pays. Nous montrons qu’il existe un fossé important entre les niveaux de pauvreté des Xhosa et des Zulu par rapport aux Sotho et Tswana. Nous montrons également que ce fossé est largement lié au fait que les deux premiers groupes cumulent les désavantages en terme de location, de structure démographique, de scolarisation et de conditions de travail. L’analyse de l’évolution qui s’est opérée après la fin de l’apartheid montre que ce fossé s’est agrandi, en particulier en ce qui concerne les Zulu.



I acknowledge financial support from the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (grants ECO2013-46516-C4-2-R) and Xunta de Galicia (CN2012/178). This research was initiated while visiting SALDRU at the University of Cape Town. It has benefited from comments from participants at the SALDRU seminar and at the WIDER Conference on Inclusive Growth in Africa.


  1. Baulch, B. and Hoddinott, J. (2000) Economic mobility and poverty dynamics in developing countries: Introduction to special issue. Journal of Development Studies 36 (6): 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bhorat, H., Naidoo, P. and van der Westhuizen, C. (2006) Shifts in Non-Income Welfare in South Africa, 1993–2004. Working Paper 108. Cape Town, South Africa: DPRU, University of Cape Town.Google Scholar
  3. Blinder, A.S. (1973) Wage discrimination: Reduced form and structural estimates. Journal of Human Resources 8 (4): 436–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bossuroy, T. (2011) Ethnic Solidarity and the Individual Determinants of Ethnic Identification. Working Paper 69. Cape Town, South Africa: SALDRU, University of Cape Town.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, M., Daniels, R.C., De Villiers, L., Leibbrandt, M. and Woolard, I. (2014) National Income Dynamics Study, Wave 2, User Manual. Cape Town, South Africa: University of Cape Town.Google Scholar
  6. Cappellari, L. and Jenkins, S.P. (2004) Modelling low income transitions. Journal of Applied Econometrics 19 (5): 593–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coudouel, A., Hentschel, J.S. and Wodon, Q.T. (2002) Using linear regressions for analyzing the determinants of poverty. In: J. Klugman (ed.) A Sourcebook for Poverty Reduction Strategies. Annex A.8 Washington DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  8. Even, W.E. and Macpherson, D.A. (1990) Plant size and the decline of unionism. Economics Letters 32 (4): 393–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Even, W.E. and Macpherson, D.A. (1993) The decline of private-sector unionism and the gender wage gap. Journal of Human Resources 28 (2): 279–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Feinstein, C. (2005) An Economic History of South Africa: Conquest, Discrimination and Development. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Finn, A., Leibbrandt, M. and Levinsohn, J. (2014) Income mobility in a high-inequality society: Evidence from the first two waves of the national income dynamics study. Development Southern Africa 31 (1): 16–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gang, I.N., Sen, K. and Yun, M.-S. (2008) Poverty in rural India: Caste and tribe. Review of Income and Wealth 54 (1): 50–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gradín, C. (2009) Why is poverty so high among Afro-Brazilians? A decomposition analysis of the racial poverty gap. Journal of Development Studies 45 (9): 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gradín, C. (2012) Poverty among minorities in the United States: Explaining the racial poverty gap for Blacks and Latinos. Applied Economics 44 (29): 3793–3804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gradín, C. (2013) Race, poverty, and deprivation in South Africa. Journal of African Economies 22 (2): 187–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hoogeveen, J. and Özler, B. (2006) Poverty and inequality in post-apartheid South Africa: 1995–2000. In: H. Bhorat and R. Kanbur (eds.) Poverty and Policy in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Cape Town, South Africa: HSRC Press.Google Scholar
  17. Leibbrandt, M., Finn, A. and Woolard, I. (2012) Describing and decomposing post-apartheid income inequality in South Africa. Development Southern Africa 29 (1): 19–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Neff, D.F. (2007) Subjective well-being, poverty and ethnicity in South Africa: Insights from an exploratory analysis. Social Indicators Research 80 (2): 313–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Oaxaca, R.L. (1973) Male-female wage differentials in urban labor markets. International Economic Review 14 (3): 693–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Oaxaca, R.L. and Ransom, M.R. (1999) Identification in detailed wage decompositions. Review of Economics and Statistics 81 (1): 154–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Özler, B. (2007) Not separate, not equal: Poverty and inequality in post-apartheid South Africa. Economic Development and Cultural Change 55 (3): 487–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. SALDRU (1994) Project for Statistics on Living Standards and Development. Cape Town, South Africa: Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit and DataFirst.Google Scholar
  23. SALDRU (2012a) National Income Dynamics Study 2008, Wave 1. Version 4.1. Cape Town, South Africa: Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit and DataFirst.Google Scholar
  24. SALDRU (2012b) National Income Dynamics Study 2010–2011, Wave 2. Version 1 Cape Town, South Africa: Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit and DataFirst.Google Scholar
  25. Thompson, L. (2006) A History of South Africa. Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa: Jonathan Ball Publishers.Google Scholar
  26. Yun, M.S. (2004) Decomposing differences in the first moment. Economics Letters 82 (2): 275–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Yun, M.S. (2005) A simple solution to the identification problem in detailed wage decompositions. Economic Inquiry 43 (4): 766–772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Yun, M.S. (2008) Identification problem and detailed Oaxaca decomposition: A general solution and inference. Journal of Economic and Social Measurement 33 (1): 27–38.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlos Gradin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of VigoVigoSpain

Personalised recommendations