The Gap between Rich and Poor: South African Society’s Biggest Divide Depends on Where You Think You Fit In

This paper investigated the possible relationship between relative financial situation and the sentiment whether or not inequality is the primary source of division in South Africa. This matters, as we have shown through our literature review, because perceived inequality (as opposed to objectively measured inequality) holds implications for social phenomena – in particular social cohesiveness. Our main finding is that those who regard themselves as ‘worse off’ than others are more likely to indicate that inequality is the main source of division in South Africa, while those who indicate that they are ‘better off’ or that their financial situation is ‘the same’ to that of their compatriots, are less likely to indicate that inequality is the main source of division in South Africa. This is an important finding when considering social cohesion on a national level. If those who consider themselves ‘better off’ than or ‘the same’ as the rest of South Africa are less likely to recognize the pervasiveness of inequality as a source of division, those with better means and resources to facilitate change and enhance social cohesion might not recognize the necessity to involve themselves in efforts to bring about a more just society.