This paper looks at social mobility in the context of a growing economy. The nature and extent of Black affluence in South Africa provides an indicator of the impact of efforts to eradicate the remnants of apartheid-era racial discrimination in the South African education system and labour market. Most studies examining social mobility and inequality in South Africa have looked at the bottom of the income distribution, investigating changes in the severity and also the racial incidence of poverty. This paper explores the same topic by studying the top of the income distribution. Focusing on the Black members of this group of affluent, this paper hopes to make some contribution towards an improved understanding of social mobility and inequality in South Africa
Firstly, we attempt to identify the features that distinguish the Black upwardly mobile from those parts of the Black population seemingly trapped in poverty, starting with a descriptive analysis of the affluent. Using the 2000 LFS/IES and the 1995 OHS/IES, the study examines the profile of the richest 15% of household in South Africa. In the second section of the paper logit and multinomial logit models are used to consider the impact of spatial features, household characteristics and the age, education and occupation of the household head on affluence. We also investigate how affluence predictors vary between different race groups. The third and last section is devoted to exploring the spending patterns of the Black affluent.
The analysis here confirms many of the traditional views of social mobility. The paper finds a strong association between geography, demographic profile and social mobility that is robust across population groups. The empirical evidence cited is consistent with convex returns to education and a substantial role for quality of education.
Also, we find that the Black affluent exhibit distinctive spending patterns. Compared to the affluent from other population groups, the Black affluent spend more on appliances and furniture and less on personal computers, telecommunications and domestic workers. This may be due to their relatively new status among the affluent.