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The publications listed here are the result of collaborations between researchers from different ACEIR country nodes and sometimes in collaboration with researchers from ACEIR partner organisations such as national statistical offices. They are presented by type of publication.

  • Journals

    Piketty comes to South Africa

    Fabio Diaz, Murray Leibbrandt, Vimal Ranchhod, Mike Savage
    British Journal of Sociology. 2021;72:106–124. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.12808

    One of the most valuable features of Capital and Ideology is its concern to take history seriously and consider how the emergence of different political and economic regimes relate to discourses about fairness and justice across time. This paper pushes this agenda further by acknowledging that the experience of a few developed nations should not be taken as the template for the generalised study of inequality dynamics across time and space. In this paper, the authors interrogate Piketty's analysis and policy proposals against specificities that are central to understanding the production and reproduction of inequalities within South Africa. They reflect on the South African case, the structure of inequality and its changes since 1994. They review a battery of policy interventions that have been implemented to address inequality in the last 25 years. They emphasise that the long shadow cast by centuries of colonialism and various forms of apartheid strongly affirm Piketty's emphasis on understanding history. But this is both affirmation and critique given the foundational, imbedded impact that this specific legacy has had on post‐apartheid society and its policies. Piketty is aware that the levels of inequality in South Africa are so high that this is “unknown territory.” They map out some of this territory to reveal how these extreme initial wealth and racial inequities inform the reproduction of inequalities in all dimensions and undermine well intentioned policies. They claim that understanding extractive histories, imbedded wealth inequalities, and complex social and political institutions allows us to understand and confront some of the reasons why even in light of progressive policies, many of which are in line with the proposals from Piketty, government interventions have thus far failed to reduce inequality. Read more

  • Research reports

    Inequality Diagnostics for Ghana

    An ACEIR report by Richmond Atta-Ankomah, Robert Darko Osei, Isaac Osei-Akoto, Felix Ankomah Asante, Abena D. Oduro, Nkechi Owoo, Monica Lambon-Quayefio & Stephen Afranie

    The second country report on inequality trends was published as part of the ACEIR Ghana node partnership between the University of Ghana and the Agence Francaise de Développement with partial funding from the Research Facility on Inequalities, supported by the European Union. The report presents a broad overview of various dimensions of inequality in Ghana over the recent past, largely based on the last three rounds of the Ghana Living Standards Surveys. With the GLSS data, the researchers explored inequality in household consumption expenditure, wage income for individuals in paid employment and household asset index derived from the ownership of household durable assets. The first two waves of the Ghana Socioeconomic Panel Survey were used to reflect some of the basic dynamics in economic and welfare mobility among Ghanaian households while three measures of inequality – the Gini, the Theil L and the Palma indices – were used as a way of complementing one other because of their different strengths and limitations. Read more 

    Inequality Trends in South Africa: A multidimensional diagnostic of inequality

    Published by Statistics South Africa, Report No. 03-10-19, November 2019

    This report is the first country report on inequality trends published jointly as part of the South African ACEIR node partnership between the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) based in the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town, Statistics South Africa, and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) with partial funding from the Research Facility on Inequalities, supported by the European Union. The report presents a broad overview of various dimensions of inequality in South Africa over the recent past, using a wide range of data sources. It presents results of inequality measurements for household income and expenditure, assets, earnings, employment, education, health, access to basic services, and social mobility. This multidimensional approach to the profiling of inequality provides stakeholders and policymakers with new insights on the inequality challenges facing South Africa’s democracy. Where possible, estimates were disaggregated by population group, sex and/or geography. Thus, the results present evidence on both vertical and horizontal inequality. Read more

  • Working papers

    Inequality in sub-Saharan Africa: A review paper

    Rocco Zizzamia, Anda David, Murray Leibbrandt
    ACEIR Working Paper no. 8, April 2021 

    Very little attention has been paid to African inequality dynamics in high-profile international discussions of changing global inequality despite the fact that African dynamics will become increasingly important to this global discussion. Within the continent, recent years have seen distributional issues becoming more central because of the importance of inequality in inclusive growth. Therefore, the review takes stock of what can be said about African inequality to promote better analysis and better policymaking in addressing inequality on the continent. The authors’ assessment of the drivers of inequality in Africa pays particular attention to the themes of intra-household inequality and gender and also inequality of opportunity and social mobility in Africa. The complexities of household formation and composition, for example the high frequency of polygamous households in some countries, are at the heart of access to resources and, therefore, important for the accurate assessment of inequality in any African context. African inequality analysis always requires that analytic attention be devoted to both rural and urban contexts and the linkages between them. Read more

    The impact of taxes and transfers on poverty and income distribution in South Africa 2014/2015

    Maya Goldman, Ingrid Woolard, Jon Jellema
    ACEIR Working Paper no. 7, January 2021 

    This paper applies the Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Assessment Framework to the 2014/15 Living Conditions Survey for South Africa to analyse the progressivity of the main tax and social spending programmes and quantify their impact on poverty and inequality. The tax and social spending system is progressive - the burden of taxes falls on the richest in South Africa and social spending results in sizable increases in the incomes of the poor.  Reductions in poverty and inequality are the largest achieved in the emerging market countries that have so far been included in the CEQ. The analysis by gender shows that the fiscal system is partially responsive to the additional burden of childcare borne by women through social transfers such as the child support grant and public healthcare and education services, and partially responsive to inequality of access to labour opportunities through the progressive direct taxation system. However, these impressive results are partly due to high levels of pre-fiscal inequality in the country and due to valuing in-kind benefits from free government services in education and health at the average cost of provision – they do not take into account the significant variation in the quality of the services provided. Read more

    Fiscal incidence, inequality and poverty in Kenya: A CEQ assessment

    Damiano Kulundu Manda, Reuben Mutegi, Samuel Kipruto, Moses Muriithi, Paul Samoei, Martine Oleche, Germano Mwabu, Stephen D. Younger
    ACEIR Working Paper no. 6, October 2020

    The objective of this paper is to evaluate the effects of fiscal policy actions by the government of Kenya on inequality and poverty. The paper uses the Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey  (KIHBS) dataset for 2015/16 combined with administrative data for the same period to construct various income concepts that are used in an analysis of welfare effects of fiscal measures following  the methodology developed by the Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Institute (Lustig, 2018). The results show that the combined impact of government taxes and expenditure actions is to reduce inequality and increase poverty, a finding that is similar to effects reported in CEQ studies done in other African countries such as Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia. The study also finds that people in the first six deciles of the income distribution are net beneficiaries of taxation plus all social expenditures, while those in the richer three deciles are net tax payers, indicating that, individually and jointly, taxation and social spending in Kenya are progressive. On a cash-only basis (i.e., excluding in-kind health and education benefits), however, only the first decile is a net beneficiary, largely because indirect taxes are paid by everyone, including the poor. This is despite the fact that, contrary to expectation, indirect taxes in Kenya are generally progressive. However, direct taxes are significantly more progressive than the indirect taxes, i.,e., they are paid at higher rates in richer deciles. Further, cash and near-cash transfers, basic education and health benefits are pro-poor while tertiary education benefits are not. Cash and near-cash transfers lead to a reduction in poverty. Finally, simulation results show that increasing cash transfer to existing beneficiaries by 50% and increasing coverage could lead to greater reduction in poverty and inequality. The main conclusion of the analysis is that Kenya’s fiscal policy can be redesigned to support both inequality and poverty reduction. Read more

    Spatial inequality through the prism of a pandemic: Covid-19 in South Africa

    Muna Shifa, Anda David, Murray Leibbrandt
    ACEIR Working Paper no. 5, October 2020

    While the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic made everyone feel very vulnerable, the pandemic has made manifest the significant gaps between individuals in terms of exposure and in terms of the capacities to cope with such a major shock. The onset of the pandemic has seen a very active and promising response from quantitative social scientists attempting to use available household and labour market surveys to assist in framing evidence-informed emergency and longer-run policy responses. This paper implements two basic profiling frameworks in the South African context using the 2018 General Household Survey and the 2016 Community Survey. The first proposes a set of indicators of a household’s readiness to cope with a lockdown and then aggregates these into an index of lockdown readiness. The second does the same for COVID vulnerability. The authors use these indicators and their aggregate indices to profile lockdown readiness and COVID vulnerability at the national, provincial and municipal levels as well providing an urban/rural breakdown. There are stark inequalities across space in lockdown readiness and in COVID vulnerability and, disturbingly, strong correlations between low readiness and high vulnerability. This has implications for budget allocations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as some of the government relief funding has been and will be apportioned according to municipal need. Read more

    Earnings inequality over the life-course in South Africa

    Rocco Zizzamia, Vimal Ranchhod
    ACEIR Working Paper no. 4, October 2020

    Earnings inequality is usually calculated from a distribution which is measured at a point in time. However, because we typically observe a positive age-earnings profile, a part of cross-sectional inequality is explained by age-related differences in earnings across age cohorts. When inequality is computed using earnings measured over the lifetime, these age-specific differences are averaged out. However, there are also factors that may drive up inequality in earnings measured over time relative to cross-sectional inequality – for instance, low cross-sectional earnings are likely to be correlated with low wage growth and longer spells of unemployment, thereby compounding inequality. Using South African data, the authors investigate how these dynamic processes act simultaneously but over different time scales to both moderate and exacerbate inequality over time. Because the available panel data in South Africa spans only nine years, straightforwardly constructing a measure of lifetime earnings is not possible. The researchers circumnavigate this challenge by constructing a synthetic lifetime panel by stitching together relevantly similar individuals across successive age cohorts. They use this synthetic panel to compute inequality of lifetime earnings and compare this to inequality of earnings measured over the medium term (two to nine years), and to inequality measured at a point in time. The authors find that inequality of lifetime earnings, which reflects the effect of the age/earning relationship, is lower than inequality of contemporaneous earnings. However, inequality of earnings measured over two to nine years, which is more sensitive to inequalities in short-term employment dynamics, is substantially higher than point-in-time estimates. Read more

    Understanding the relationship between economic inequality, inequality of opportunity and education outcomes in Ghana

    Monica P. Lambon-Quayefio, Robert D. Osei, Abena D. Oduro, Isaac Osei Akoto
    ACEIR Working Paper no. 3, October 2020

    Using a two-wave nationally representative panel data, the study finds that the contribution of unfair inequality (which is inequality driven by factors beyond the control of individuals) to total consumption inequality in Ghana is not trivial. The authors find that inequality of opportunity accounts for about 8.1% of total consumption inequality in Ghana. Place of birth, the locality of residence and parental education and the presence of parents within the household contribute significantly to inequality of opportunity. While consumption inequality negatively affects learning outcomes, its impact flows entirely through inequality of opportunity. Policymakers are required to be more deliberate in the distribution of social infrastructure and other economic resources across the country so as not to concentrate resources in particular areas, thus leading to the neglect of other parts of the country. Policies that ensure access to education in the current generation are encouraged to minimise unfair inequality in the future. Read more

    Exploring the dynamics of micro-level consumption inequality in Ghana

    Nkechi S. Owoo, Robert Osei, Stephen Afranie
    ACEIR Working Paper no. 2, October 2020

    Although poverty and inequality are related concepts, they are by no means identical and the use of welfare ratios and household per capita expenditures as proxies for both is inadequate as it endorses the usage of similar policy interventions. This paper proposes another measure of inequality at the micro-level. Household deviation scores are derived from the family of generalised entropy inequality measures, with greater deviation scores from the population mean indicative of greater micro-level inequality. By means of this novel construct, the authors are able to model the correlates of poverty and inequality separately, using a panel dataset for Ghana. They find four different cases of correlations for household poverty and inequality. While some factors are associated with both increasing poverty and inequality, such as urban farming and higher household dependency ratios, other factors are associated with decreasing poverty and inequality such as urbanisation and the provision of social safety nets. Perhaps more interestingly, some factors are associated with increasing (decreasing) poverty but decreasing (increasing) inequality. These findings on variations in the correlates of both poverty and inequality welfare outcomes allow greater policy concentration on not just poverty, as has been the case in many developing countries, but also on inequality. The authors conclude that policy interventions to reduce poverty do not necessarily translate into reductions in inequality. It would be important to design more nuanced interventions, therefore, to ensure that both welfare outcomes – poverty and inequality – are satisfactorily and simultaneously achieved. Read more

    Worlds Apart: What polarisation measures reveal about Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth and welfare distribution in the last two decades

    Fabio Clementi, Michele Fabiani, Vasco Molini, Rocco Zizzamia
    ACEIR Working Paper no. 1, 2019

    Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) development path over the past two decades has been characterised by sluggish poverty reduction occurring alongside robust economic growth. While in this context we would expect inequality to increase, standard synthetic measures provide little evidence of a generalisable uptick in inequality over this period. The authors argue that the standard empirical toolkit available to development economists working on SSA has limited the ability to understand the role that distributional change plays in the persistence and reproduction of poverty on the continent. For this reason, they propose that supplementing inequality measures with the analysis of polarisation provides a cleaner distributional lens through which to make sense of SSA’s poverty performance during this period of growth. Applying polarisation measures to comparable survey data from 24 SSA countries, the authors find that there has been a generalisable increase in polarisation over the past two decades – and in particular, an increased concentration of households in the lower tail of the relative distribution. That this inegalitarian trend is overlooked when using standard synthetic inequality measures confirms the authors' hypothesis that the current toolkit represents a technical bottleneck to understanding the effects of distributional trends on poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa – and that polarisation analysis may help overcome this. Read more

  • Policy engagements

    Stakeholder engagement on inequality trends in South Africa – a multidimensional diagnostic of inequality

    Summary of the stakeholder event on inequality in South Africa, 11 February 2020, Philippi, Cape Town

    This summary relates to the publication of the report Inequality Trends in South Africa – A multidimensional diagnostic of inequality and captures the information presented and the discussions at a stakeholder engagement hosted by ACEIR in February 2020. The event sought to present high-level research findings from the multidimensional diagnostic report; and invited stakeholder engagement to map out a way forward. The event was held in partnership with Statistics South Africa; the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town; the Agence Française de Développement, and the European Union Research Facility on Inequalities. Read more

  • Research resources

    Handbook on Inequality Measurement for Country Studies

    Muna Shifa, Vimal Ranchhod, 2019

    To build capacity for the country-level inequality analysis, a Handbook on Inequality Measurement for Country Studies was developed by ACEIR researchers at the University of Cape Town. While the handbook was developed specifically as an intermediate guide for the ACEIR node members, it may also be useful for researchers who are planning an inequality study within a particular country. In addition, the handbook has been written with a meta objective in mind; namely to facilitate the comparability of results and findings across countries. This externality represents one of the major motivations for a multi-country collaboration such as ACEIR. Read more