A comparison of the economic status of mothers by marital status : an analysis of South African survey data.
In the post-apartheid period, little research has focused on the economic welfare of South African mothers. In particular there are few studies that compare the economic status of mothers by marital status. Many children in South Africa live in households without fathers (Posel and Devey 2006), which indicates that there is a high incidence of single motherhood in South Africa. Previous research has shown that South African women are more likely to be poor than their male counterparts and female-headed households, on average, are poorer than male-headed households (Posel and Rogan 2009a; Armstrong et al. 2008; Hoogeveen and Özler 2006; Budlender 2005; Rose and Charlton 2002; Woolard and Leibbrandt 1999). These results suggest that single mothers and their children would be more likely to be worse off than families that include men. Historically, insufficient data on motherhood made it difficult to identify a national sample of mothers; however recent household surveys have made it easier to do so. Using the General Household Survey (GHS) 2006 I am able to identify all women aged from 19 to 65 who are co-resident with at least one of their children aged 18 or younger. A disadvantage of this sample is that it excludes not co-resident mothers who have left their household of origin – often in pursuit of better work opportunities. Consequently the sample underestimates the extent of motherhood as well as the labour force participation rate of African single mothers in particular. Despite this limitation, I am able to gain useful insights into the economic welfare of South African mothers. By undertaking a descriptive and poverty analysis I show that on average, African and White single co-resident mothers have an inferior economic status compared to African and White married co-resident mothers respectively. I also show that disparities in income exist between the two races with White mothers, on average, having greater access to resources compared to African mothers. A benefit of the GHS 2006 is that it includes individual information on the receipt of social grant income. Thus I am able to quantify the impact of public transfers, as well as other categories of income, on poverty alleviation. I show that African single co-resident mothers, in particular, are highly dependent on grants. The study also explores the Child Support Grant (CSG) specifically and notes that the grant is limited in coverage and value. Furthermore, I highlight that the only other formal method for single mothers to obtain financial assistance, is via the private maintenance system, which is fraught with inefficiencies and often the costs of engaging with the system far outweigh the benefits. This dissertation therefore highlights the plight of South African single co-resident mothers and concludes by suggesting methods for improving their economic status.