DP8155 Colonial Rule, Apartheid and Natural Resources: Top Incomes in South Africa, 1903-2007

Author(s): Facundo Alvaredo, Anthony B Atkinson
Publication Date: December 2010
Keyword(s): distribution, income taxation, South Africa, top income shares
JEL(s): D3, H0, N3
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=8155

There have been important studies of overall income inequality and of poverty in South Africa. In this paper, we approach the subject from a different direction: the extent and evolution of top incomes. We present estimates of the shares in total income of groups such as the top 1 per cent and the top 0.1 per cent, covering, with gaps, more than a hundred years. In order to explain the observed dynamics, here we consider three factors: the transfer of political authority, racial discrimination, and the rich mineral resources. The estimates of top income shares for recent years bear out the picture of South Africa as a highly unequal country.