Socioeconomic Mobility and Household Welfare of Female-Headed Households in Eastwood, Pietermaritzburg (South Africa)

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:10 PM
Room: 413
Oral Presentation
Calda DE VRIES , University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Drawing from life-histories of female heads of households (FHHs), this paper examines social mobility and household welfare of FHHs in the community of Eastwood, which is historically a working class community in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. This paper broadly assesses the working and dynamics of social mobility as framed against, on the one hand, the milieu of South Africa’s increasing inequality and poverty, and, on the other, the context of increasing feminization of poverty and the workplace. As individuals squeezed by market forces and neglected by the state, I pay particular attention to the social networks and associations to which female-headed households in the community of Eastwood belong to, invest in, and how they benefit from them. I also closely interrogate the kinds of exchange, sharing, reciprocity, trust and support systems that characterize these networks and associations that contribute to household welfare and socioeconomic mobility. Following Waite’s (2000:155) assertion that FHHs cannot be understood as non entities operating in a vacuum away from the broader social, economic and political institutions in which they are embedded in, I start by asking what social and structural factors constrain or enable socioeconomic mobility and household welfare of FHHs.