Tukufu Zuberi, Amson Sibanda, Eric Udjo, eds. The Demography of South Africa. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 2005. xxiv + 310 pp. $121.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7656-1563-3.
Reviewed by Bruce S. Fetter (Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Published on H-SAfrica (March, 2006)
Post-Apartheid Demography: A First Iteration
Government population statistics in segregation and apartheid South Africa were designed for a number of purposes (allocating seats in the House of Assembly, classifying people according to racial categories, restricting African access to urban areas), but analyzing the population of South Africa as a whole was not one of them. The African Census Analysis Project and Statistics South Africa are therefore to be congratulated for a brave effort to make sense of these data in the volume under review. The ten chapters that comprise this work, however, are not of uniform quality and the researcher who wishes to learn about South African demography from them must be on guard.
In chapter 1, Akil Kokayi Khalfani, Tukufu Zuberi, Sulaiman Bah, and Pali J. Lehohla provide a useful guide to the "dog's breakfast" which constitutes official government output. It demonstrates how the minority regime arrived at its census estimates, not through de facto enumeration, but through de jure status, of the position of those people recognized as legally resident, either as citizens or as authorized foreigners. Only in 1996, after the country had gone to majority rule, did the government try to estimate the actual population, through a combination of enumeration, sample surveys, aerial photographs, and extrapolation. Vital registration for Europeans began in 1911, for Colored people in 1936, for Asians in 1938, and for Africans in 1986 but that coverage is spotty even today, particularly in rural areas, and does not include temporary sojourners or infants who die before their birth has been registered.
Given the unreliability of so many official statistics, Eric O. Udjo's chapter on fertility is a model of analysis and clarity. For his estimates, Udjo was forced to evaluate three conflicting sources: the October Household surveys, which were conducted between 1994 and 1998 with differing questionnaires and fluctuating sample sizes; the 1996 census; and, for White, Colored, and Indian adults old enough to have been included, the census of 1970. After carefully comparing four of the annual surveys with the 1996 census, he arrives at total fertility rates for women in the four historical racial categories of South Africans in 1998: 3.5 for African, 2.6 for Colored, 2.5 for Indian/Asian, and 1.9 for White. The last figure is below the rate necessary to sustain population at its current level. Non-racial figures by modern provinces show a wide variation from 4.1 in Limpopo and 3.7 in Mpumalanga to 2.7 in Gauteng and the Western Cape. In the process Udjo also shows that the 1996 census figures are inconsistent with those obtained from the surveys and implies that the census is less reliable. Finally, on the basis of the 1970 census he shows that fertility from all groups fell over the 25-year period to 1995. In 1970 the total fertility rates were: 5.4 African, 5.2 Colored, 4.1 Indian/Asian, and 3.1 White.
By contrast, Sibanda and Zuberi's chapter on age at first birth has little to recommend it. Ignoring Udjo's strictures, it relies on the less than adequate 1996 census. It also applies logistic regression to eight age categories to obtain odds of having a first birth at successive ages. In chapter 4, Udjo is more modest regarding the utility of available census and survey data in the analysis of HIV/AIDS mortality, offering only a few speculations based on "rough comparisons and simple linear regressions" (p. 111) which do not allow HIV/AIDS mortality to be separated from general mortality. Suleiman Bah comes to a similar conclusion when he analyzes admittedly deficient cause of death records, which are more convincing for urban areas than rural ones, even though he admits that "HIV/AIDS has become South Africa's biggest health problem in the twenty-first century" (p. 155).
All but one of the five following chapters broach useful topics but have little new to say. Chapter 6 deals with the residence of children whose parents are dead, but makes no connection to AIDS orphans. Chapter 7 shows the continuity between past and present South African life tables, which calculate the probability of death at various ages. Chapter 8 examines family structure confirming the high proportion of female family heads. Chapter 9 points to the country's substantial primary school attendance and the lesser likelihood of Africans to complete secondary school. Zuberi and Sibanda's final chapter on immigration raises the substantial question of the job-market advantage which African immigrants enjoy over native South African blacks, but does not offer much of an explanation for the phenomenon.
In sum, the authors have provided a useful introduction to South African demography in the late apartheid and early majority rule periods. They have promised a second volume based on the 2001 census, which scholars should welcome, because it will be based more on change over time. They might, however, balk at the high price of the volumes in this series.
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Bruce S. Fetter. Review of Zuberi, Tukufu; Sibanda, Amson; Udjo, Eric, eds., The Demography of South Africa.
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Copyright © 2006 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.