Reported levels of racial identity commitment amongst a sample of young people from South Durban


Gerard Boyce


Recently, much attention has been devoted to the concept of identity, especially racial identity, within Economics. Empirical studies in this emerging research area have identified and investigated a number of pathways through which identity could affect economic outcomes. Notwithstanding this increased and increasing attention, studies usually employ a very simplistic model of identity. By and large, identity is treated as an exogenous (given) variable and a static quantity with limited allowance made for individual choice in the determination or salience thereof. In contrast, identity construction in related academic work is viewed as a complex iterative process of constant exploration and negotiation that is influenced by a range of societal and environmental factors.


Arguably, not accounting for this complexity has implications for the interpretation of the results of data analyses and the conclusions which can be drawn therefrom. Furthermore, since adolescence is a life stage characterised by identity exploration and the constant risk of role confusion, the consequences of doing so are likely to be magnified when investigating the influence of identity amongst young people.


Given this possibility, this paper sought to address a gap in the extant Economics literature by investigating identity commitment amongst a sample of Grade 11 learners from six schools in South Durban. Specifically, it investigated the relationship between respondents’ reported level of commitment to their racial identity, perceptions of racial hierarchy and career expectations. In contrast to prior economic studies in this area, it treated the level of racial identity commitment as a choice and modelled it as a function of a series of explanatory variables. It also inferred an indirect relationship between racial identity commitment and future outcomes via their joint relationship with expectations. The relationship between identity commitment and career expectations was then investigated using a simultaneous equation model. Preliminary results based on the responses of black learners indicate that this relationship is positive and statistically significant. This result will be discussed in terms of the positive relationship between career expectations and academic outcomes that has been reported on elsewhere.


Date: Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Time: 15:00-16:30


Venue: ccrri seminar room, 2nd floor George Campbell building, South Campus, Howard College Campus. Use the south entrance into the building; and Entrance 3 on Rick Turner (Francois) Road if driving. Please refer to the ccrri website for a map (, click on ‘The Centre’ tab).

Enquiries: or 031 260 1599/3902/3903

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