Opportunity Hoarding and Elite Reproduction: School Segregation in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Rob Gruijters*, Benjamin Elbers, Vijay Reddy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


School integration is an important indicator of equality of opportunity and racial reconciliation in contemporary South Africa. Despite its prominence in public and political discourse, however, there is no systemic evidence on the levels and patterns of school segregation. Drawing on the literature on the post-apartheid political settlement and sociological theories of opportunity hoarding, we explain how the small White minority and, to a lesser extent, the new Black middle class monopolized access to South Africa’s most prestigious schools following the abolition of de jure segregation in 1994. Using the 2021 Annual School Survey—an administrative dataset covering all South African schools—and the 2019 TIMSS school survey, we find very high levels of school segregation along racial as well as socioeconomic lines. White students almost exclusively attend former White schools, have little exposure to the low-income Black majority, and are vastly overrepresented in elite public and private schools. We argue that in South Africa and other contexts with under-resourced education systems, elite capture of the few high-performing schools serves to reproduce race and class privilege.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Forces
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2024


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