Growing partnerships: London School of Economics and Political Science

15 Dec 2022
Image of hourglass and stacks of money that increase over time

Image: creativeart via Freepik

15 Dec 2022

The Transforming Social Inequalities Through Inclusive Climate Action (TSITICA) project investigates how climate change action can be socially transformative in three African countries: Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

TSITICA is a collaborative, multi-country interdisciplinary research project of two ARUA Centres of Excellence (ACEIR, and the ARUA Centre of Excellence on Climate and Development – ARUA-CD) in partnership with the universities of Ghana, Nairobi, Cape Town, Bristol, East Anglia and Manchester, and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). The project seeks to understand the nexus between climate change, sustainable livelihoods, and multidimensional poverty and inequality to explore how climate actions can be deliberately targeted to improve livelihoods and equitably benefit all, including the most vulnerable and poor. 

One component of TSITICA assesses the impacts of climate change and shocks on different assets and forms of wealth including land, housing, health, and education. Findings will be presented at the ARUA Climate Change and Inequalities Symposium to be hosted by TSITICA in March 2023. 

High-quality panel data from South Africa’s National Income Dynamics Study and Ghana’s Socioeconomic Panel Survey were used to define asset and wealth bundles that facilitate or hinder mobility. Leaning heavily on the poverty dynamics literature in anchoring mobility to the probability of staying in or falling into poverty, this work does not allow for tracking and explaining mobility through the middle-classes and into the elite, and for assessing the racial divides which intersect with economic inequality.

This quantitative work will require further investigation of how differential asset and wealth bundles support or constrain the livelihood possibilities of individuals, households, and communities across the socio-economic spectrum. TSITICA intended to go to the heart of these relationships with qualitative research within communities, but project funding cuts made this impossible. 

Under the leadership of the LSE’s Prof. Mike Savage, this data gap was compensated for somewhat with research on perceptions of wealth inequalities within South African communities, and the significance of these inequalities in their lives. Prof. Savage is the Martin White Professor of Sociology at the LSE and a former director of the LSE’s International Inequalities Institute. He worked with Dr Annalena Oppel (LSE Fellow in Inequalities, Sociology Department) and Prof Corinne Squire (Chair in Global Inequalities, University of Bristol) to explore how different communities in South Africa perceive wealth and its intersection with racial divides.

This was complemented by a survey led by Dr Oppel to provide representative data on whether the way in which inequality is communicated influences fairness perceptions of wealth inequality, further assessing trust in institutions and meritocracy in South Africa.

Now, in 2023, and with funding from the LSE, similar research will be done in Ghana which has a very different African context. Additionally, ACEIR researchers in Ghana and South Africa will draw on the LSE’s wealth surveys and the literature on African middle-classes and elites to contribute to a Global South understanding of the drivers that facilitate or hinder social mobility within these social classes.

Such a critical review of the enablers of social mobility from a sustainability and equitable growth perspective can inform policies and climate actions, particularly those that seek to address inequality. 

This expanded partnership with the LSE’s International Inequalities Institute is preceded by earlier collaborations, such as research to contribute to the body of evidence on a multi-dimensional understanding of inequality for better grounding and evaluation of policies meant to reduce inequalities. This analysis, by ACEIR South Africa researchers from UCT’s Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) is cited in Prof. Savage’s book, The Return of Inequality (2021, Harvard University Press). 

With Prof. Savage visiting SALDRU and ACEIR in February and March 2023, we hope to host a public discussion with him about the insights from this publication while also engaging with him on ACEIR’s likely participation in an exciting global programme on inequality research at the LSE.

Watch this space for more details or sign up for future news alerts. 

Article by Charmaine Smith, ACEIR communication manager, December 2022.