Invisible Borders – Persisting Scars: How the Apartheid Homelands Define Contemporary South Africa

Gustafscenen Session 6: Global inequality – levels and trends organized by Ellen Hillbom


Peter Courtney


I utilise a regression discontinuity design (RDD) to examine the long-run persisting welfare reductions caused by the Apartheid homelands (1948-1994). The homelands were the only areas in Apartheid South Africa where Black African people could reside and own land. I estimate the contemporary geographic pattern of welfare reductions caused by the homelands by identifying a second-best counterfactual population through an RDD estimator. I present a novel improvement to naïve counterfactual identification in spatial RDDs. The results indicate that the homelands have caused a long-run and persisting reduction in education attainment (decreasing the school completion rate by 2.17%) and a reduction in education inputs (increasing students per teacher by 7.66%), while also reducing the size of schools. The results further show that the homelands have caused long-run population density to double and that homelands-specific erosive agricultural practices have reduced contemporary topsoil quality. In an economic history background analysis, I highlight the role of the following as likely causes of the contemporary pattern of spatial inequality: the limited size of the homelands, denaturalization, the migrant labour system, parent absenteeism, Apartheid rural policy (including ‘influx control’ and ‘Betterment’), ‘Native Law’, Bantu education, and property dispossession. I compiled a novel homeland-specific geographic data set to conduct this research.


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