|dc.description.abstract||The coloured population comprises almost 10 per cent of the South African
population, earning only a slightly smaller proportion of national income.
The average income of this group hides, however, startlingly large disparities
in living standards. Their Gini coefficient has been rising, and depending on
the data source one uses, appears to be close to or even above 0.60 – a level
exceeded by few countries. Poverty levels are high; roughly one-quarter to
one-third of all coloured people can be classified as poor, depending on the
poverty line used.
This poverty is in spite of the fact that during the apartheid era, coloureds
were never subjected to quite the same levels of economic and socio-political
discrimination as blacks and shared common languages and much of their
culture with whites, which could have served as lubricant for social mobility
into the middle class. Taking cognisance of these facts, the question arises why
so many coloured people find themselves in a poverty trap.
This paper takes a historical approach in an attempt to provide some pointers
as to why poverty has remained so pervasive within this group. We present
statistics on the socio-economic position of this population group, starting
in 1865, when the first official census was conducted in the Cape Colony.
We highlight information of interest wherever early censuses allow. This
is followed by an examination of censuses and surveys dating from 1970
onwards, using micro datasets. Patterns of educational progress and exclusion
are highlighted and compared with those of other groups, where possible and