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Agüero, Jorge & Carter, Michael R. & May, Julian (2005) Poverty and Inequality in the First Decade of Democracy: Evidence from KwaZulu-Natal.  : 1-18.

During months leading up to the ten year celebrations of South Africa’s democracy an intense debate took place concerning trends in the incidence and severity of poverty and inequality in the post-apartheid era. This debate was made more complex by the multitude of methodologies applied to the analysis of poverty of inequality as well as by data problems identified in the available official statistics. Representatives of the South African government have questioned both the findings of both the official statistics agency and other sources. Adapting and stretching a more cautious analysis (van der Berg and Burger, 2002), suggestions that poverty and inequality have increased have been countered by referring to improvements in social expenditure and the impact that this has had on the ‘social wage’. Although a re-examination of the various studies can yield some insight as to the likely situation, alternative data sources provides an opportunity for triangulation and help resolve what actually happened to poverty and inequality between 1993 and 2004.

Offering a point of departure, qualitative and participatory studies such the 1996 South African Participatory Poverty Assessment (SA-PPA) have shown that vulnerability and shocks relate to features of poverty or strategies associated with specific events (e.g. births, deaths, entry into the labour market) and anticipation of obtaining entitlements (May et al, 1996) Research using a life course approach has also demonstrated the importance of demographic and socio-economic life cycle of individuals and families. Building on this, May and Roberts (2000) argued the need for panel data for policy analysis in South Africa and described a panel data set that had just become available to researchers. These data, known as the KwaZulu-Natal Income Dynamics Study (KIDS), were derived from households first surveyed in 1993 as a part of the national Project for Statistics on Living Standards and Development (PSLSD) and re-interviewed in 1998. KIDS has just been extended by a further six years with a new wave of data collection conducted in 2004. The study now provides a three period panel study that spans the first 10 years of South Africa’s democracy and introduction of many policies intended to reduce poverty.

This paper briefly reviews existing information on trends in poverty, inequality, employment and access to services from other data sources. The paper then describes the three waves of data collection for KIDS and then goes on to analyse transitions made by the surveyed households in terms of economic well-being and access to services and access to grants. The paper concludes by identifying important areas for further research that might improve the analysis and interpretation of the changes in poverty in the first decade of South Africa’s transition.

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