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Kris Marsh studying the Black middle class in South Africa

The project is part of the Fulbright program

Faculty Associate Kris Marsh is working on a 9-month Fulbright project in South Africa, with an aim to extend her research on the Black middle class in the U.S. to the Black population in South Africa. The growth of a Black middle class has been regarded as an important benchmark for the social and economic standing for Blacks both in the United States where Blacks have constituted a sizable minority in relation to a white majority, and in South Africa where Blacks comprise a dominant majority in relation to a white minority. The social mobility of these Black groups is often purported as evidence that discrimination and prejudice has eroded. There is evidence that middle class status, with all that it promises, is precarious for both Black populations who have achieved middle class standing. As a collective group, middle class Blacks continue to face historical and persistent marginalization, discrimination and segregation.

For these reasons, scholars struggle to decide who among these Black populations should actually be considered middle class. Dr. Marsh's project seeks to explore how African-Americans, Black-Africans and Coloreds in South Africa conceptualize middle class and how this conceptualization informs residential choices, gender relations, and patterns of overall well-being.