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Citation Information

Type Working Paper - SALDRU Working Paper Number 237, Version 1/ NIDS Discussion Paper 2019/4
Title Building social cohesion in South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2019
This paper uses data collected across the five waves of the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS), covering 2008-2017, to update a measure of social cohesion for South Africa. This updating exercise is important in validating the measure and establishing its credibility and potential use amongst policymakers. The index suggests that social cohesion has been improving over time in South Africa, albeit the gains have been small. These gains have been driven primarily by improvements in perceived trust, and more recently, as shown in the data for Wave 5, by reduced perceptions of inequality. Conversely, our results suggest that a sense of belonging has been eroded over time. Controlling for individual and time fixed effects, we examine the underlying individual and household characteristics that are correlated with these changes in dimensions of the social cohesion index. Our key results suggest that access to employment and earned income are positively associated with individual perceptions of trust, equality and a sense of belonging. Moreover, service delivery, particularly electrification, street lights, and refuse collection, has contributed positively towards building social cohesion. We also consider the use of national symbols and holidays to promote social cohesion. The results show that individuals interviewed soon after Freedom Day report significantly lower levels of trust but significantly higher levels of perceived equality than individuals interviewed later. Conversely, individuals interviewed soon after Heritage Day report significantly higher levels of trust than those interviewed later. Since public holidays are exogenously given, and interview date is, for the most part, also exogenous, these results certainly suggest that there may be short term effects associated with the experience of a particular public holiday that undermine or promote social cohesion.

Related studies

Njozela, Lindokuhle , and Justine  Burns. "Building social cohesion in South Africa." SALDRU Working Paper Number 237, Version 1/ NIDS Discussion Paper 2019/4 (2019).
Copyright DataFirst, University of Cape Town