Monitoring perceptions of the causes of poverty in South Africa

SOURCE: Social Indicators Research
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
TITLE AUTHOR(S): Y.D.Davids, A.Gouws
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 7070
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/3559

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This study explored how people perceive the causes of poverty. Literature revealed that there are three broad theoretical explanations of perceptions of the causes of poverty, namely individualistic explanations, where blame is placed squarely on the poor themselves; structural explanations, where poverty is blamed on external social and economic forces; and fatalistic explanations, which attribute poverty to factors such as bad luck or illness. To examine South Africans perceptions according to these dimensions secondary analysis was employed on one of the Human Sciences Research Councils (HSRC) national representative client surveys. Approximately 3,498 respondents across South Africa were surveyed between 18 April and 30 May 2006. The bivariate analysis revealed that South Africans in general attribute poverty to structural over individualistic and fatalistic dimensions of poverty. Ordinary least square regressions revealed that these perceptions of poverty interacted with a host of socio-demographic and economic variables such as race and peoples' lived experiences of poverty. In this regard, all three ordinary least square regressions showed that lived poverty had a significant impact in predicting respectively structural, individualistic and fatalistic perceptions of the causes of poverty. The second regression predicted individualistic perceptions and showed that being white was the most significant predictor. The third regression predicted fatalistic perceptions and established that being coloured was the most significant predictor.