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SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper

Enabled to Work: The Impact of Government Housing on Slum Dwellers in South Africa


This paper looks at the link between housing conditions and household income and labour market participation in South Africa. I use four waves of panel data from 2002-2009 on households that were originally living in informal dwellings. I find that those households that received free government housing later experienced large increases in their incomes. This effect is driven by increased employment rates among female members of these households, rather than other sources of income. I take advantage of a natural experiment created by a policy of allocating housing to households that lived in close proximity to new housing developments. Using rich spatial data on the roll out of government housing projects, I generate geographic instruments to predict selection into receiving housing. I then use housing projects that were planned and approved but never actually built to allay concerns about non-random placement of housing projects. The fixed effects results are robust to the use of these instruments and placebo tests. I present suggestive evidence that formal housing alleviates the demands of work at home for women, which leads to increases in labour supply to wage paying jobs.


Simon Franklin

10 May 2016     Paper Number SERCDP0197

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This SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper is published under the centre's Urban programme.