The links between exclusion and inequality

The concepts of social exclusion and inequality are closely linked. Unequal societies in which certain groups are discriminated against can lead to exclusion. Likewise, social exclusion involves inequality. Unlike vertical inequalities, which focus on individuals, horizontal inequalities concern inequalities between groups, as does social exclusion.  Both horizontal inequalities and social exclusion are multidimensional, encompassing social, economic and political forms of exclusion. However, horizontal inequalities are not always severe enough to lead to a situation defined as social exclusion.

Policies and initiatives to reduce horizontal inequalities and social exclusion can be quite similar; both take a multidimensional approach and generally target groups rather than individuals. Both are also concerned with the responsibility of richer groups in bringing about social exclusion/ horizontal inequality, and are conscious of the need to address policies towards richer as well as poorer people to reduce social exclusion/ horizontal inequality.

The social exclusion discourse in Latin America, for example, emerged partly as a result of widespread recognition of the high levels of inequality throughout the region. In sub-Saharan Africa, debates on poverty reduction are increasingly focused on inequality, providing entry points for social exclusion to be addressed.

Stewart, F. (2004). Horizontal Inequalities: A Neglected Dimension of Development( Working Paper No. 1). Oxford: Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security, and Ethnicity.
Why are groups important for individual welfare and social stability? When and how do horizontal inequalities lead to conflict? Current thinking about development places individuals firmly at the centre of concern for analysis and policy. Attention is focussed on inequality between individuals. This paper explores why groups are important for individual welfare and social stability, and argues that inequalities between culturally formed groups (horizontal inequalities) are an important but neglected dimension of development.
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United Nations Development Programme. (2005). Inequality and Human Development. In Human Development Report 2005, International Co-operation at a Crossroads – Aid, Trade and Security in an Unequal World (chapter 2). New York: United Nations Development Programme.
Does inequality matter? This chapter sets out the reasons why inequality is important and looks at its different dimensions. It shows how interlocking inequalities in income, health and education disadvantage the poor and argues that even modest moves towards greater distributional equity could advance human development and accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
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Okojie, K., & Shimeles, A. (2006). Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Synthesis of Recent Research on the Levels, Trends, Effects and Determinants of Inequality in its Different Dimensions. London: Overseas Development Institute.
How should researchers monitor the various forms of inequality in sub-Saharan Africa? What steps should policymakers take to reduce this inequality? This paper surveys empirical studies of poverty in an attempt to establish the levels, consequences, current trends and determinants of inequality in the region. It argues that educational reforms, infrastructure development and demographic change can reduce income inequality, and that promoting equality and economic growth can together lower poverty levels.
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Lakhani, S., Sacks, A., & Heltberg, R. (2014). ‘They are Not Like Us’: Understanding Social Exclusion (Policy Research Working Paper, No. 6784). World Bank.
How do negative attitudes underpinning social exclusion work? This statistical study by the World Bank, based on a survey in Europe and Central Asia, finds widespread rejection of marginalised groups. It identifies clusters of intolerance towards: the poor, families with children and the elderly; stigmatised attributes and behaviours (e.g. people living with HIV, drug users, homosexuals); and specific identity groups (e.g. immigrants, minorities). Country-specific history and culture are far more determinant to these attitudes than socio-economic characteristics. As a result, the authors suggest a series of strategies against social exclusion that would seek to change social norms, attitudes and behaviours towards disadvantaged groups, among both insiders and outsiders. The authors also warn against reproducing stigmatising categories. Potential entry points exist in both formal institutions (such as laws, education, service provision) and informal institutions (such as engaging with religious leaders).
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