Photography by:
  • GCRO, Clive Hassall, GCRO

Conditions for social mobility: a cross-metro comparison

Poverty, unemployment and inequality (the so-called ‘Triple Threat”) are usually presented as societal features that we need to ameliorate or eradicate. Often research, as well as public and political commentary on these issues, focuses on describing how bad the situation is, and how it has changed over time. Rarely does research or policy consider, or make clear, the processes that enable people to move out of poverty, or that reduce inequality over time.

This project aims to provide a better understanding of the structural conditions that enable Gauteng to function as an 'urban escalator', both facilitating (but also in many ways inhibiting) social mobility. Certain places provide more opportunity or an easier path out of poverty than others. Increasingly, scholarship seeks to understand spatial specific conditions for social mobility, either at the regional or city level, or by looking at neighbourhood level effects, given how the class-structure, income mixing, housing forms, relative spatial dislocation etc. of particular parts of the city provide structural conditions (or impose limitations) on progression.

A cross metro comparison aims to uncover how the GCR functions as an urban escalator relative to other urban areas in South Africa, and – given that all opportunities are also not accessible to everyone who lives in Gauteng – how do different parts of Gauteng work to promote or inhibit social mobility. These are important dimensions of poverty, inequality and social mobility that we will explore in a multi-year project.

Last updated: 10 December 2021.

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