Assessing Changes in Household Socioeconomic Status in Rural South Africa, 2001–2013: A Distributional Analysis Using Household Asset Indicators

Chodziwadziwa W. Kabudula*, Brian Houle, Mark A. Collinson, Kathleen Kahn, Stephen Tollman, Samuel Clark

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    68 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Understanding the distribution of socioeconomic status (SES) and its temporal dynamics within a population is critical to ensure that policies and interventions adequately and equitably contribute to the well-being and life chances of all individuals. This study assesses the dynamics of SES in a typical rural South African setting over the period 2001–2013 using data on household assets from the Agincourt Health and Demographic Surveillance System. Three SES indices, an absolute index, principal component analysis index and multiple correspondence analysis index, are constructed from the household asset indicators. Relative distribution methods are then applied to the indices to assess changes over time in the distribution of SES with special focus on location and shape shifts. Results show that the proportion of households that own assets associated with greater modern wealth has substantially increased over time. In addition, relative distributions in all three indices show that the median SES index value has shifted up and the distribution has become less polarized and is converging towards the middle. However, the convergence is larger from the upper tail than from the lower tail, which suggests that the improvement in SES has been slower for poorer households. The results also show persistent ethnic differences in SES with households of former Mozambican refugees being at a disadvantage. From a methodological perspective, the study findings demonstrate the comparability of the easy-to-compute absolute index to other SES indices constructed using more advanced statistical techniques in assessing household SES.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1047-1073
    Number of pages27
    JournalSocial Indicators Research
    Volume133
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017

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