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Socio-economic status and demographic outcomes in South Africa: are assets a valid proxy for income?

Quincy Stewart, Indiana University
Sandile E. Simelane, University of Pennsylvania

Research indicates that there is a strong relationship between socioeconomic status and demographic outcomes. While in the developed world measures of socioeconomic status are widely available, this type of data is seldom available for developing countries. Consequently, there is a dearth of research on socioeconomic status and demographic outcomes in developing countries. One solution to this data dilemma is to estimate an assets index using questions commonly found in surveys and census data. In this paper, we assess the validity and reliability of a commonly used assets index as a proxy for socioeconomic status. Using South African Census data, we analyze the similarities between income and the assets index, and examine the consistency between the two measures in predicting infant mortality at the household and community level. We conclude that the assets index is a valid and reliable index of socioeconomic status, and is equivalent to income in predicting infant mortality.

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Presented in Session 150: Population and poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa