Urban Poverty and Living Standards
Of all the potential threats to the development and well-being of children, poverty appears to be the most pervasive and damaging in its effects. In simple terms, poverty is the in ability to acquire the materials and services that are essential to maintain life. Poverty and the material hardship associated with it are all too common an experience among South Africans. When poverty is defined in terms of low income, rural poverty is, of course, much deeper and more widespread than urban poverty. Although rural and urban poverty differ in how they present and in prevalence, they have an equally pernicious impact on the development of children. Even within urban areas, families are not all poor in the same way, or for the same reasons. Poverty takes root in different ways in the lives of Mandela's children. Because of its complexity, poverty can be observed alternatively as chronic hunger, inadequate housing, low living standards, low income, low consumption, lack of human capital, low accumulated wealth, and high debt. The purpose of this chapter is to depict the experience of urban poverty in its diverse manifestations by drawing on both national surveys and Birth-to-Ten (BTT) data. Discussion of poverty and living standards begins with a presentation of data on the socioeconomic status of South Africans as a nation, with a goal of understanding the wide population group differences in living standards. The chapter concludes with a demographie analysis of urban poor households based on data obtained from the families of Mandela's children.