A Society Divided: How Unequal Education Quality Limits Social Mobility in South Africa

Synthesis report for the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD). Stellenbosch, February 2017

62 Pages Posted: 28 May 2017 Last revised: 29 May 2017

See all articles by Eldridge Moses

Eldridge Moses

Stellenbosch University - Department of Economics

Servaas van der Berg

Stellenbosch University

Kate Rich

Stellenbosch University

Date Written: February 1, 2017

Abstract

The central focus of this research project is the investigation of the role of education in promoting social mobility for the poor in the highly unequal South African economic landscape. The investigation is of particular relevance in a country where the rapid expansion of educational attainment since the 1970s has not produced the desired labour market outcomes for many South Africans, for the most part perpetuating patterns of poverty and inequality along the apartheid dimensions of race and geography.

Given the deep structural nature of inequality in South Africa, this report employs a conceptual framework linking dualism in the labour market to dualism in the school system, to illustrate how differences in education quality are at the root of income inequality that persists two decades into democracy. The grim labour market prospects facing South Africa’s young adults are in large part attributable to an education system that still manages to produce vastly different education outcomes that favour a small elite and disadvantage those in the less affluent part of the system. This conceptual framework is used throughout the report to discuss how education quality is critical for advancing social mobility for the economically vulnerable.

The work is an amalgamation of existing and ongoing work in the Department of Economics and the Research on Socio-Economic Policy (Resep) group at Stellenbosch University, and new work produced specifically for this PSSPD project.

Keywords: education, poverty, inequality, labour market, retuns to education, development, South Africa

JEL Classification: I24, I26, J33

Suggested Citation

Moses, Eldridge and Van der Berg, Servaas and Rich, Kate, A Society Divided: How Unequal Education Quality Limits Social Mobility in South Africa (February 1, 2017). Synthesis report for the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD). Stellenbosch, February 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2973759

Eldridge Moses

Stellenbosch University - Department of Economics ( email )

Private Bag X1
Matieland, 7602
South Africa

Servaas Van der Berg (Contact Author)

Stellenbosch University ( email )

Private Bag X1
Stellenbosch, Western Cape 7602
South Africa

Kate Rich

Stellenbosch University ( email )

Private Bag X1
Stellenbosch, Western Cape 7602
South Africa

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