Changing Socio-Spatial Inequalities: Population change and the lived experience of inequality in urban South Africa
This project provides an innovative analysis of how people's lived experiences of socio-economic inequality are shaped by the complex dynamics of urban change in South Africa and how such experiences in turn shape the country's urban social fabric. The collaboration was between QUB (the project moved from the University of Liverpool), Southern African Social Policy Research Institute (SASPRI) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and comprised an inter-disciplinary team (Geography, Demography, Social Policy and Urban Planning) with complementary areas of expertise in relation to socioeconomic inequality and urban population change.
South Africa continues to be a deeply unequal society with markedly different standards of living across population groups (or race) and spatially. The current evidence base concerning inequality in South Africa is relatively small, and says little about the changing geographies of inequalities, the associated impacts which are felt on the ground as individuals' 'lived experience' of inequality, and consequences for the urban social fabric of the country. In this project quantitative and qualitative methods were combined to examine the interplay between urban spatial transformation and social attitudes towards inequality, attachment to place, and social inclusion.
The three-year research programme had four parts: (i) Mapping the changing geographies of inequality across South Africa between 1996 and 2011. Measures of spatial evenness and clustering were generated to characterise the spatial context of areas. (ii) Focus groups were undertaken in Cape Town to explore the factors and processes that shape people's experiences of inequality, and whether people's experiences of inequality affect their attachment to place and sense of social inclusion. (iii) Surveying people's experiences of inequality and their attitudes to inequality. A new module of inequality-related questions was included in the 2017 round of the nationally representative South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS). (iv) Testing whether people's attitudes to inequality are associated with their experiences of inequality using new/refined dependent and independent variables in multilevel regression models. The quantitative spatial measures developed in (i) were linked to the SASAS data to develop a more nuanced analytical appreciation of how inequality impacts on residents' lives and their attitudes about inequality and redress.
Impact of Research
The results of this project offer important new insights which will support national and local government when developing evidence-based policies to tackle inequality. It will enable policies in the areas of housing, urban planning and poverty alleviation to be informed by analysis of the lived experience of inequality, derived from an inter-play of highly context-specific qualitative enquiry and cutting-edge quantitative techniques.
Major grants and funding
2016–2019: ‘Changing Socio-Spatial Inequalities: Population change and the lived experience of inequality in urban South Africa’, principal investigator C. D. Lloyd (co-investigators D. McLennan, M. Noble, I. Turok, G. Wright). ESRC South Africa Urban Transformations Call (ESRC element = £422,422; with FEC £478,120). [Grant number: ES/N014022/1
Lloyd, C. D., Bhatti, S., McLennan, D., Noble, M. and Mans, G. (2021) Neighbourhood change and spatial inequalities in Cape Town. Geographical Journal, published online. https://rgs-ibg.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/geoj.12400
- David McLennan, Southern African Social Policy Research Institute
- Michael Noble, Southern African Social Policy Research Institute
- Gemma Wright, Southern African Social Policy Research Institute
- Ivan Turok, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa
Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 1: Reduced Inequalities
Goal 10: Reduced inequalities