I investigate labour earnings in the top tail (± top 12%) of the South African income distribution from 1995 to 2007, using a new harmonised data set constructed from the OHSs and LFSs (Kerr et al 2011). Nonparametric techniques suggest that the distribution is well approximated by a Pareto distribution. Surprisingly, this distribution seems to have been remarkably stable over the entire period. Parametric estimates suggest that the tail parameter is around 1.8, which suggests that the distribution is “fat tailed”. This implies that extreme outcomes are more common than with the standard “normal” distribution. I discuss some of the implications of such fat tails for the way we think about inequality.
Recent and upcoming events
The first in a new series of CSSR quantitative methods workshops focuses on panel data analysis and uses the Cape Area Panel Study to illustrate a few basic techniques.
Minimum wages in the South African clothing industry are set by mostly metro-based capital-intensive employers and organised labour in the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry (NBC). These wages are routinely extended by the Minister of Labour to cover all firms. Firms that do not comply with the agreement are pursued through the courts and eventually shut down by the NBC. We have argued elsewhere that this has been harmful for labour-intensive growth. In this seminar, we summarise the argument briefly and then discuss recent wage-setting agreements that seek to reduce wage pressure on firms and job losses in non-compliant firms in South Africa.
Sociological treatments of the reproduction of social inequality in South Africa often focus on historical, political and economical aspects while references popular culture are commonly used to describe differences rather than to explain them. As a result much of South African cultural sociology, especially with regards to youth culture, is entailed in in-depth ethnographic descriptions of particular subcultures. In contrast this seminar is about the role of taste and cultural preferences in the reconfiguration of common perceptions of “otherness” and their function in the reproduction of social inequality. By presenting findings from a survey and in-depth focus groups with schoolchildren in Cape Town it explores the divisive potential of contemporary youth culture, especially where class and race connotations meet. Bourdieu’s work on cultural capital and habitus is applied in the context of South African youth culture in order to discern the links between structural inequality and taste. Particular attention is paid to the effects of uneven access to different forms of media.
Some opinion surveys have found that South African respondents are highly skeptical of foreigners and immigrants, relative to respondents from other countries. This, combined with high profile attacks on immigrants in recent years, calls for an investigation of the sources of hostility toward outsiders. This presentation examines predictors of attitudes toward immigration among the “born free” generation, testing several hypotheses that scholars have used to explain xenophobia in South Africa and elsewhere. The analysis uses new, preliminary data from the 2012 Cape Area Study, a survey recently conducted by CSSR's Democracy in Africa Research Unit that asked Cape-Town area high school learners and their teachers and parents about their opinions on civics and other public issues. The hypothesis that skepticism of immigration is driven by economic anxiety receives some support, while the hypothesis that hostility toward immigration is a byproduct of South Africa’s nation-building efforts is not supported. Measures of educational effectiveness are also not associated with levels of support for immigration.
In the late 1970s, North Western Tanzania and Southern Uganda probably constituted the epicentre of the African HIV epidemic. By the time Museveni’s National Resistance Army took Kampala in 1986, AIDS constituted a real crisis. But the new government's willingness to confront the disease (which contrasted with the denial exhibited by most African governments), its frank prevention campaigns and its emphasis on "partnership" with civil society contributed to a stellar international reputation and significant investments by donors. But its reputation probably gained most from the declines in HIV prevalence observed in Uganda from the early 1990s. This paper interrogates whether the Museveni government's reputation for excellent leadership on AIDS is deserved. It does so by examining the role of underlying epidemiological trends in explaining the HIV prevalence declines (by implementing a standard epidemiological model) and the evolving role of non-state actors in the Ugandan AIDS response. Particular attention is paid to institutional arrangements and a political culture that discourages vocal civil society and to donor dependence and donor dominance of the policy agenda.
The high prevalence of clinical co-morbidity in PLWHA has focussed appropriate attention on TB and opportunistic infections. Less well researched is the prevalence of psychiatric disorders such as alcohol and drug abuse and the impact of these on the clinical status of PLWHA. Using a sample of 1503 patients attending HIV clinics in the Western Cape, this research investigated the prevalence of harmful and hazardous use of alcohol and drugs and the multivariate relationship between this and demographic and clinical factors. The research further employed structural equations modelling to investigate and clarify the role and impact of harmful and hazardous alcohol use on disease progression in PLWHA. The results provide strong evidence for the centrality of alcohol abuse in compromising the general clinical status and health outcomes of PLWHA. The research suggests various policy and programmatic implications from the perspective of both HIV and substance abuse diagnosis and treatment.
Recent scholarly work has demonstrated that urban tenure forms exists on a continuum from informal to freehold rather than as a dualistic relationship of dejure versus defacto tenure as held for a long time. Knowledge about the effects of dejure versus defacto tenure has accumulated but we know little about the effects of these intermediate forms, on economic and particularly on social dimensions of poverty. Using a capital asset framework, this paper investigates the effects of leasehold tenure as opposed to occupancy tenure on economic capital as indicated by household income, number of assets, credit access and income generating activities, and social capital as indicated by social networks, financial value of networks, and social cohesion. The study draws evidence from a pseudo-natural experiment in Lusaka, Zambia. In this experiment, residents of Matero and George have lived as neighbours renting from the Lusaka City Council and living in similar conditions for over forty years. In 1996, Matero residents benefitted from the privatization of public housing receiving 99-year leasehold tenure while those in George continued to rent from the council under 30-year occupancy tenure. A survey (n=623) and qualitative interviews (n=35) were conducted in 2011. The study finds that leasehold tenure was associated with higher household income and number of assets but no effect on income generating activities and credit access. Leasehold tenure was positively associated with number of networks but had no effect on the financial values of those networks and on social cohesion. Calls about formalization of intermediate forms of urban tenure are discouraged as they may consolidate into stratified social formations overtime.
Receipt of a financial aid package produces a complex mix of challenges for low-income students in the university environment. Does financial aid income generate unanticipated pressure on students to provide ongoing support to family members? How do low income students adapt to the social pressures of the middle- to high-income university environment? This study attempts to answer these questions and others by tracking a small group of UCT financial aid students who maintain daily financial diaries (recording income and expenses) in combination with attendance at regular interview and focus group meetings. Early data suggest that, on average, students continue to receive family financial support, and are very rarely asked to make reciprocal contributions. Student experience also appears to be deeply rooted in a nascent sense of class identity.
Margaret Irving is a PhD candidate in International and Comparative Education at Stanford University. She is lecturing in the UCT School of Economics on contract in 2012.
This paper investigates community health workers’ negotiation between the prescribed ‘manual’ for care and the lived realities of their field, exploring how standards of public health are re-appropriated through the micro-politics of everyday practice. What inventiveness, agency and tactical manoeuvres are woven between abstract ideals and situational demands and what are the implications for our understanding of carework? Using in-depth qualitative methods, the paper investigates the practice of care amongst a cohort of fifteen community health workers, serving as antiretroviral adherence supporters in two Cape Town primary healthcare clinics. It shows community health work, as a model for care, to be complex and demanding – a composite of practices prescribed by a range of institutions with diverging interests. This onerous care manual is expected to be delivered by a cadre of lay health workers positioned at the interface between communities and clinics - with minimal training, limited resources and little authority. Within this demanding occupational terrain, careworkers have crafted space for agency and tactics. Through a series of improvisations, respondents mediate between the often-incongruent demands of patients, employers, funders, and state policy, whilst also negotiating their own self-care and aspirations for upward mobility. In a policy context that has sought to standardise, systematise and regulate carework, this practice is contrastingly inventive and adaptive. The makeshift, unplanned, and chancy nature of carework is often far from its original design, calling into question how the success of this model should be understood.