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Anderson, Barbara A., and Mosidi S. Nhlapo. 2009. "Changes in Standard of Living among Population Groups in South Africa: 1998-2006." PSC Research Report No. 08-654. July 2009.
This paper examines changes in standard of living in South Africa 1998-2006 overall and for population groups. Aspects of material standard of living (type of housing, source of drinking water, type of sanitation, source of lighting, source of cooking and access to a telephone) are combined to define four standard of living groups. The data sources are large (18,000-30,000 households) nationally representative surveys. The percent of urban African households in the best standard of living group (with a middle class standard of living), increased from 14% to 22% between 1998 and 2006, indicating emergence of an urban African middle class. About 40% of Coloured households, 75% of Asian households and 85% of White households had a middle class standard of living throughout the period. The percent of rural Africans in the worst standard of living group (no sanitation or a bucket toilet, drinking water from a dam, pond or stream) declined from 10% to 6%. In addition, the percent of all households, as well as the percent of urban African and rural African households, in the worst category of each of the standard of living indicators (no sanitation or bucket toilet, drinking water from stream, pond or dam, more than 16 minutes from a telephone, candles as source of lighting) declined substantially between 1998 and 2006, showing substantial poverty alleviation. There is no evidence of deterioration in the material standard of living of White households. The percent of Coloured, African, rural African and urban African households who enjoyed a decent standard of living – clean drinking water and decent sanitation (flush or chemical toilet or VIP) – also increased. Especially striking is the increase from 13% to 21% of rural African households with a decent standard of living. Almost all White households and Asian households had a decent standard of living at all dates. Also, the share of all households with a middle class standard of living comprised by African households increased from 21% to 40%, indicating the increasing need for manufacturers and advertisers to direct their attention to African consumers. There is variability in standard of living by province. Gauteng and Western Cape have the highest standard of living, and rural African households in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal have the worst standard of living. However, the standard of living of rural African households in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal improved between 1998 and 2006, although the situation for rural Africans in these two provinces remains much worse than elsewhere in South Africa. These improvements in standard of living were driven by the increased availability of clean drinking water, a decline in the use of bucket toilets in urban areas, and construction of pit latrines in rural areas. The increasing number of VIP’s in rural African communities has contributed substantially to improvement in the standard of living of rural African households.
Country of focus: South Africa.