Year: 2014
Working paper number: 326
Author: Telzak, Samuel
Unit: SSU
This paper investigates young black South Africans' perceptions of social mobility and economic inequality, using targeted ethnographic interviews in two non-major metropolitan areas of South Africa, and compares these with previous research in metropolitan Cape Town. The two areas studied were the rural communities around Mount Frere (in the Eastern Cape) and the medium-sized town of Newcastle (in KwaZulu-Natal). Interviewees in Newcastle had similar conceptualisations of the distribution of income in South Africa to those in Cape Town, while interviewees in Mount Frere differed. The latter seemed to base their perceptions on their experiences outside of Mount Frere and were much less focused on the continued association of race and class than those from Cape Town and Newcastle. Respondents in Mount Frere and Newcastle agreed with the Cape Town interviewees about the importance of education for getting ahead, but they also stressed the necessity of political connections and highlighted the danger of drugs and alcohol for their mobility prospects. The interviews in Mount Frere and Newcastle additionally suggest the troubling possibility that a 'mobility trap' has developed in both areas.
Publication file: WP 326.pdf