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
Date Written: February 1, 2017
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: Suggested Citation