Years ago, LSMs were an attempt to get away from broad racial demographics. Now class shifts can be measured with a great many other variables, as futurefact research shows.
Race, as we’re all aware, is a sensitive issue to deal with even in research terms. Some feel the concept should be relegated to the annals of the past and others believe that it cannot be consigned to the dustbin as it has huge relevance on a number of fronts, not least of which is the commercial space.
An offshoot of this debate is that many feel there are several other variables that can be used in lieu of race as the colour of skin is not the critical defining feature. Many years ago the derivation of LSMs was an attempt to get away from broad racial demographic claims.
Since 2006, Futurefact has been measuring class shifts but the survey has also monitored race and a great many other variables. There are fascinating insights to be gleaned from looking at those who have seen social shifts upwards or downwards from their parents’ generation to their own. Now, in combination with who they are racially, plus a range of other variables like age cohort, educational level achieved and work status, we have a rich source of real differentiation between different sectors in our complex social world.
One of the main insights to emerge from the 2015/16 survey is that young educated black people in South Africa, contrary to the noise and protests on university campuses, are generally positive about the diversity in the country. 84% of black 18-34 year olds who have a post matric education believe that all South Africans can co-exist peacefully without losing their own cultural identity and 74% maintain that black and white people need each other for the country to prosper.
Three quarters have friends in other race groups and are less likely than average to feel that whites should still feel guilty about apartheid. It is also true however, that even those who have seen a class shift upwards in their own lives, believe that in South Africa, whites still feel superior to black people.
The importance of possessions and brands as a reflection of identity and success is important to those who have moved upwards on the social mobility ladder (about 5.2 million people). In fact, 53% say that the best way to judge someone’s success is through their possessions and 64% look up to and respect those who have expensive cars, clothes and lifestyles.
While the belief prevails in this country that it’s possible to start out poor, work hard and become rich, it’s also true that ‘black tax’ is still eating away at incomes in those who are better off than their relatives. 70% of those who have risen up the social mobility ladder say they have to help support other family members.
Nonetheless, as long as the social mobility escalator continues to move, it appears that there is still an optimism about the future, a belief that things will improve for themselves and their children – a spirit of resilience exists despite stringent economic times.
The findings presented above are from a futurefact survey, based on a probability sample of 3 048 adults aged 18 years and over, living in communities of more than 500 people throughout South Africa and representing 22.8 million adults living in 9.4 million households. Visit www.futurefact.co.za
This story first appeared in the April issue of The Media magazine.
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