Black living standards in South Africa before democracy: New evidence from heights

Working paper 670
Bokang Mpeta, Johan Fourie and Kris Inwood
Publication date: 
February, 2017

Very little income or wage data was systematically recorded on the living standards of South Africa’s black majority during much of the twentieth century. Between 1911 and 1996, for example, only fragmentary evidence of black living standards remain in mining reports and manufacturing censuses, often at a too generalised level or of too short time-span to render any meaningful unbiased, long-run interpretations of living standards. This paper uses three new datasets to document, for the first time, the stature of black South Africans over the course of the twentieth century. The data allow us to disaggregate by ethnicity within the black population group, revealing levels of inequality within race group that has been neglected in the literature.

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