Challenging inequalities through policy relevant academic research.


February 2020

Dear friends,

Our February newsletter leads with a discussion and summary of some fascinating new research by Prof. Ranchhod and his co-author, Dr Miquel Pellicer. In their new SALDRU working paper, they use a highly innovative method to estimate the economic effects of racial classification during apartheid. This work combines a mixture of careful data work, cutting edge statistical techniques, and a deep understanding of the history and institutions that the apartheid system was based on. Understanding our present challenges is intrinsically related to understanding our history, and this work helps us to further achieve this objective as a society.

Part of our core mission is to do research that can make a difference. Yet research on its own has only a limited policy impact. To be really useful, the findings from research need to be shared widely and discussed with external stakeholders. This was the thinking behind a large event co-hosted by the African Centre of Excellence for Inequality Research (ACEIR) earlier this month, to discuss the findings of StatsSA’s Inequality Trends Report. The Inequality Trends Report was a joint project, including SALDRU researchers, and was released late last year. At a well-attended event, academics, members from civil society, senior government officials, and several international diplomats met to share the findings of the report, and then discuss how these results can be used practically to charter a better course forward.

On the people front, the SALDRU team keeps growing and evolving. We warmly welcome Nidhi Parekh to the SALDRU family. She brings a wealth of international experience with her, and joins as the project manager for J-PAL Africa’s Digital Identification and Finance Initiative in Africa (DigiFI) project. Laura Poswell, who leads the J-PAL Africa team, is on maternity leave for the next few months, and Anna Kilpatrick will be the Acting Executive Director of J-PAL Africa while Laura is away. The SALDRU team is always looking for motivated and talented people, and we list some positions that we’re currently advertising for in the newsletter below.

Best wishes,

Murray Leibbrandt
Director, SALDRU
Vimal Ranchhod
Deputy Director, SALDRU

Measuring the economic benefits of Whiteness during apartheid

Image: A 2008 recreation of an election queue for the South African 1994 elections. Hennie Stander on Unsplash.

Apartheid was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations (UN) in 1973, for the systematic oppression and domination of Black South Africans by the apartheid government. The effects of those policies are still very much with us in contemporary South Africa, as evidenced by the racial disparities in any number of a multitude of social welfare measures. To date, however, we do not have any credible measures of the economic harm done to Black individuals, nor economic benefits that accrued to White individuals, who lived under the apartheid regime.

In a new SALDRU working paper, Prof. Vimal Ranchhod and Dr Miquel Pellicer estimate the economic returns to Race during apartheid. Using multiple Censuses, and a change in the racial classification process for statistical identification, they estimate the effects of being classified as White, as compared to being Coloured, on educational attainment, employment, and income.

The main findings are that one’s racial classification had a very large impact on one’s educational attainment, and on income for men. For the subset of people who were affected by the change in the classification process, the authors estimate that being classified as White led to an increase of 3.7 and 3.9 years of schooling, on average, for men and women respectively. The most striking finding, however, is that for a male to be classified as White instead of Coloured would have more than tripled his income. This represents a measure of a new and more holistic concept of discrimination, which they call the cumulative effect of discrimination. Read more.

Marie Antoinette rules in Colombia as the masses protest against inequality

Image: LoggaWiggler on Pixabay.

Since late November, Colombia has seen unprecedented mass protests. Colombians are protesting against inequality, as the country has the highest Gini index among the 36 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. In addition, recent government measures, such as cuts in taxes to wealthy investors and an increase in taxes for the middle classes, have generated a significant backlash in a failed attempt to implement “trickle-down economics”. Read more in a Mail and Guardian article written by Saldrupian Fabio Andres Diaz Pabon together with Maria Gabriela Palacio Ludena; or if you can read in Spanish, read more in a recent The Conversation article written by the same authors.

How can we act on inequalities in South Africa?

Image: ACEIR director Prof. Murray Leibbrandt addresses participants at the stakeholder engagement. Photo: ACEIR via Twitter.

The release of the Inequality Trends in South Africa report in November 2019 made the headlines for all of the obvious reasons: the country remains stifled by enormous inequality challenges that cut across multiple domains of well-being, and that (predictably) those most affected are Black Africans, women, and people in rural areas. The question of what strategies and interventions can help to address this situation was tackled earlier this month at a multi-sectoral stakeholder engagement hosted by SALDRU, Statistics South Africa and the Agence Franciase de Developpement (AFD) under the banner of the African Centre of Excellence for Inequality Research (ACEIR). Read more.


Nidhi Parekh joins J-PAL Africa as Project Director for DigiFI

Nidhi Parekh has joined J-PAL as the Project Director for the Digital Identification and Finance Initiative in Africa (DigiFI) - J-PAL Africa’s first initiative.  

In this role, Nidhi helps governments, academics, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private companies use rigorous research to understand how innovation in digital ID and payment systems policy affects lives. Read more.



Enterprising women in Southern Africa: When does land ownership matter?

Limited access to finance is one of the major barriers for women entrepreneurs in Africa. This paper presents a model of start‐ups in which firms’ sales and profits depend on their productivity and access to credit. However, due to the lack of collateral assets such as land, female entrepreneurs have more constrained access to credit than do men. Testing the model on data from the World Bank Enterprise Surveys in Eswatini, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe, we find land ownership to be important for female entrepreneurial performance in terms of sales levels. This finding suggests that the small Southern African economies would benefit from removing obstacles to women’s land tenure and enabling financial institutions to lend against movable collateral. While land ownership is linked with higher sales levels, it seems less critical for sales growth and innovation where access to short term loans for working capital seems to be key. The paper is forthcoming in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues. Access the SALDRU working paper here.

Citation: Brixiová, Z., Kangoye, T. Tregenna, F. (2020). Enterprising women in Southern Africa: When does land ownership matter? Cape Town: SALDRU, UCT. (SALDRU Working Paper Number 258)

Poor rates of linkage to HIV care and uptake of treatment after home-based HIV testing among newly diagnosed 15-to-49 year-old men and women in a high HIV prevalence setting in South Africa

This study by Brendan Maughan-Brown and colleagues – published in AIDS Care – examined factors influencing linkage to HIV care following home-based HIV testing in a hyper-endemic setting in South Africa. Early antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation significantly reduces AIDS-related morbidity and the onward transmission of HIV, yet many people continue to delay HIV treatment until they are sick. The study used prospective cohort data among 183 newly diagnosed adults, with follow-up data collected using telephone surveys. Key results showed that only 55% visited an HIV clinic within 3 months, and that linkage to care was less likely among participants who had doubted their HIV-diagnosis. Results indicate that interventions are required to counter psychosocial barriers to treatment uptake and to facilitate early linkage to care among healthier individuals. Access here.

Citation: Maughan-Brown B, Beckett S, Kharsany ABM, Cawood C, Khanyile D, Lewis L, Venkataramani A, George G. Poor rates of linkage to HIV care and uptake of treatment after home-based HIV testing among newly diagnosed 15-to-49 year-old men and women in a high HIV prevalence setting in South Africa. AIDS Care. 2020, DOI: 10.1080/09540121.2020.1719025

Estimating the effect of racial classification on labour market outcomes: A case study from Apartheid South Africa

This is the working paper that was discussed in the lead article of this newsletter. Access here.

Citation: Pellicer, M., Ranchhod, V. (2020). Estimating the effect of racial classification on labour market outcomes: A case study from Apartheid South Africa. Cape Town: SALDRU, UCT. (SALDRU Working Paper Number 259)


For more SALDRU working papers, journal article contributions and policy briefs, please visit OpenSALDRU.


Job openings

Image: Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash.

Policy Associate  - Cape Town, South Africa

J-PAL Africa seeks a Policy Associate to support its mission of promoting evidence-based policymaking. J-PAL is looking for a driven self-starter with an eye for opportunity, a dedication to quality and a passion for helping people. Apply by 3 March.

Research Associate  - Johannesburg, South Africa
J-PAL Africa is seeking a Research Associate to lead the implementation of one of their ongoing studies, at J-PAL Africa's satellite office in Johannesburg. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Apply.

Junior research fellow (3-year fixed term contract)

We are looking for a suitably qualified and experienced person to work together with SALDRU researchers across a range of projects focusing on the post-school sector. The post is designed as an entry-level position for those interested in pursuing a career in the soft-funded researcher environment. The successful candidate will be involved in original empirical research, publishing, collating and facilitating access to administrative data, report writing, capacity training and applying for funding grants. Closing date: 3 March 2020. More details.

Webinar: Maths Education in Africa

Image: photosforyou on Pixabay.

Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) Africa is pleased to announce the first webinar hosted by TaRL in 2020. On 13 March 2020 at 5pm CAT, three presenters will share evidence and experiences with Maths Education, with a focus on Africa. Please register for the webinar and submit your questions by 6 March.
Turning Africa’s divided past into a cohesive future

Image: Prof. Hiroyuki Hino addresses participants of the colloquium where the book From Divided Pasts to Cohesive Futures: Reflections on Africa was launched. Photo: Kim Ingle.

Throughout history up to the present day, African countries have been facing inequalities and social division that undermine cohesion and contribute to instability on the continent. But how can Africa build on its ethnic and other differences as strengths and drivers of growth and development, rather than sources of division and instability? This is the key question addressed in a new book, From Divided Pasts to Cohesive Futures: Reflections on Africa, edited by SALDRU affiliates Prof. Hiroyuki Hino and Prof. Arnim Langer (University of Leuven), Prof. John Lonsdale (Cambridge University) and Prof. Frances Stewart (University of Oxford). The book was launched this month at a colloquium hosted jointly by SALDRU, UCT’s Poverty & Inequality Initiative and the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) who funded the work. Read more.
SALDRU Seminars

SALDRU Seminar 19 February 2020 Can a wage subsidy help reduce youth unemployment?, by Amina Ebrahim from UNU-WIDER.

For information about past and future seminars, click here
. To subscribe to our seminar mailing list, click here
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