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What does the ‘middle class’ mean in a polarised, developing country such as South Africa?

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What does the ‘middle class’ mean in a polarised, developing country such as South Africa?

12th March 2014

By: Econ3x3

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In a developing, highly unequal country such as South Africa, it is unlikely that a definition of the middle class that is based on an income threshold will adequately capture the political and social meanings of being middle class. We propose a multi-dimensional definition, rooted in the ideas of empowerment and capability, and find that the ‘empowered middle class’ has expanded significantly since 1993. It also is much larger than when measured in terms of income.

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Written by Ronelle Burger, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University and Camren McAravey, Master's student, Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University.

This article was first published on the Econ3x3 website – Accessible policy-relevant research and expert commentaries on unemployment and employment, income distribution and inclusive growth in South Africa.

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