Two Nations? Race and economic inequality in South Africa today

Type Journal Article - Daedalus
Title Two Nations? Race and economic inequality in South Africa today
Volume 130
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2001
Page numbers 45-70
In South Africa, black and white are no longer synonymous with rich and poor. Moreover, South African society cannot simply be divided into rich and poor, as if the distribution of incomes were bipolar. In the final decades of apartheid the deracialization of formerly discriminatory policies, upward occupational mobility among black workers, and rising unemployment resulted in declining interracial inequality but rising intraracial inequality, especially among the black population. In post-apartheid South Africa, inequality is driven by two income gaps: between an increasingly multiracial upper class and everyone else; and between a middle class of mostly urban, industrial, or white-collar workers and a marginalized class of black unemployed and rural poor. A more appropriate economic comparison might be drawn with the image of the United States painted by the American Catholic Bishops in 1995: "The U.S. economy sometimes seems to be leading to three nations living side by side, one growing prosperous and powerful, one squeezed by stagnant incomes and rising economic pressures and one left behind in increasing poverty, dependency and hopelessness."

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