Human Capital Investment through Education: The way to an equitable middle class in South Africa

Photo of Laura Peterjohn holding an inflatable Tootsie Roll

Name: Laura Peterjohn
Major: Economics
Minor: English
Advisor: Dr. Brooke Krause; Dr Melanie Long (second reader)

When Apartheid ended in 1994 South Africa was left with one of the most unequal economic systems in the world. As non-white South Africans gained rights, and new classes emerged it was clear the growth of the black middle class remined stagnant. This thesis hypothesizes that educational experiences differ based on race and that leads to lower income levels and decreased class mobility. While arguing that the introduction of education-based policies would help grow the black middle class by promoting economic growth and increasing class mobility. In previous literature the failed attempts of policy to promote economic growth and the resulting stagnant middle class have been explored, along with the lack of equity in the South African education system, but few connections have been drawn between the inequitable education system and stagnant middle class for black South Africans. Using data from IPUMS International to support macro-economic growth theory surrounding human capital, this analysis shows a positive relationship between higher education and income levels. However, when examining the relationship between education and income for black South Africans a negative relationship appears. This suggests that educational inequality exists in ways that do not help black South Africans to participate in economic growth and experience mobility across socioeconomic statuses.

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Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022.

3 responses to “Human Capital Investment through Education: The way to an equitable middle class in South Africa”

  1. David McConnell says:

    Congratulations on completing IS, Laura! Your topic and presentation are very interesting. It’s hard to believe almost four years have passed since FYS. Best wishes for your post-graduation plans!

  2. Brooke Krause says:

    Amazing work on your IS, Laura! I am so proud of your work on this thesis and all the ways you have been able to share it with the world through presenting at the Eastern Economic Association and at the Federal Reserve next week!

  3. Mary Neagoy says:

    Impressive work, Laura! Thanks for sharing your poster with me today at the Scot Center. Congrats & best wishes for whatever comes next

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