713.1 Political context, social stratification and inequality perception: A comparison of recent democracies in the cases of South Africa and Brazil

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 12:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Neuma AGUIAR , Sociology, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro RJ, Brazil
Arnaldo MONT'ALV├O , Sociology, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
Economic wealth and income distribution with large middle-classes have been considered long term characteristic of some western countries like the US and several European countries. Other societies in Latin America and Africa, late comers to democratic processes, with social structures characterized by sharp stratification profiles, may be studied throwing light on recent demands for democracy. The paper deals with the perception of social distance and the support expressed in relation to social policies to curb inequality, according to the position of respondents in social stratification scales (occupational, educational and income), gender and race. It explores the historic processes of democratization of the two societies and their social policies to explain the differences encountered in the perception and willingness to act and curb social inequality by the population of the two cities. The paper is based on a comparative and representative public opinion survey conducted in the cities of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Cape Town, South Africa. Multinomial models estimate the effect of class, race and gender upon the perception of the society’s shape. The paper demonstrates that although these societies are sharply unequal, the respondent’s perception of social inequality is distinct in the two societies. Brazilians perceive the shape of their society as more polarized than South Africans. South Africans also showed to be more inclined to contribute to social policy, at personal cost, than Brazilians. While in Brazil social class and schooling are the major determinants of this inequality perception, in South Africa race and social class are the main explanatory factors. Social class, however, is negatively related to inequality perception in Brazil and positively in South Africa.