Changing patterns of South African income distribution: Towards time series estimates of distribution and poverty

van der Berg S. ; Louw M. (2004)


This paper attempts to provide alternative estimates of income distribution in South Africa, utilizing data that allow us to evaluate income, distribution across time, reducing dependence on the vagaries associated with individual surveys. In particular, we attempt to arrive at racial distribution data as well as data on inequality within race groups, which we then combine to arrive at estimates of overall poverty from 1970 to 2000. However, data for the last few years of this period is suspected to be less reliable than data for the earlier part, thus we purposely choose conservative assumptions to arrive at what we shall refer to as our standard or pessimistic estimates for this period, so that we can be fairly certain that these estimates are worst case estimates of poverty trends after 1995. An alternative, less pessimistic estimate is also shown for 2000. The paper is set out as follows: in the next section we discuss the methodology in broad terms; thereafter we look at the results of applying this methodology in terms of the inter-racial (between group) distribution of income; then we apply the intra-racial (within group) distribution data to the inter-racial distribution data sets, in order to arrive at overall estimates of inequality and poverty; next we discuss the trends in poverty as derived from our data, whilst continually also pointing out the deficiencies and uncertainties in this data; and finally in our conclusion we provide some comments about underlying trends ascertainable from these estimates and what these imply for the income distribution debate.

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