According to the study, the black middle class has grown from 350 000 individuals in 1993, to almost three million in 2012, with the black share of the middle class growing from 11% to 41%.
“In terms of fundamentals, our society is slowly becoming more equitable,” said Professor Hennie Kotzé, Research Fellow at the Centre for International and Comparative Politics at Stellenbosch University.
The researchers caution that there is still a lot of work to be done on racial equality when it comes to income, as whites are still over-represented in the middle class, but say that the figures indicate that South Africa is making steady progress.
“After almost 20 years of democracy, it is no longer true that South Africa’s middle class is mainly white,” said Servaas van der Berg, a professor of Economics in a media statement. “Black South Africans now represent the largest share of the middle class.”
According to the university, despite the heartening news provided by the study, there are still major issues that need to be dealt with – particularly for South African children.
“Where almost all children growing up in typical upper middle class households will have access to electricity, clean water and decent sanitation we find that less than 20% of young children in lower class households have access to adequate sanitation, less than 35% have access to clean water and just over 60% have electricity in their homes.
“Similarly, while 83% of children who live in upper middle class households have access to a car, it is rare amongst the lower income classes (4%). The starkest contrast is in terms of computers: 73% of upper middle class children grow up with computers in their home, but virtually none of those born into lower classes have access to a computer,” the university said in its statement.
You can read more about the research on Stellenbosch University’s Research on Socio-Economic Policy website.