Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How much does race contribute to poverty in South Africa?

It is no one's surprise that blacks in South Africa are poor, less educated and less healthy than whites, given the still rather recent struggles through apartheid. But the country has also gone through a remarkable reversal of fortunes, with blacks now running the country and leading some formidable efforts to raise the blacks from chronic poverty. In some ways, these efforts are much more substantial than those that have been made in the US, where blacks are still a minority and yet have remained in poverty with little progress for decades. It is therefore of interest to understand how things have improved in South Africa, and whether the damage from apartheid has been overcome.

Carlos Gradín focuses on poverty and deprivation, both of which still show considerable gaps between blacks and whites, and comes to the conclusion that they are mostly explained by education and "family background" (parents' occupation and education). This all points to the fact that education is the big policy option, but it will take considerable time to reduce the gap.

These results are obtained by estimating a reduced-form equation for blacks and then letting them assume the characteristics of whites. Unfortunately, this procedure does not allow to determine whether there is still some discrimination against blacks, which would have been of particular interest in this context.

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