Measuring Social Exclusion
Ruth Levitas
Second Peter Townsend Memorial
Conference: The State of the Art
January 2011
Potential advantages of ‘social exclusion’
•An emphasis on process rather than state
•An insistence on multi-dimensionality
•The centrality of the ‘social’ and therefore
of social relationships.
Individuals, families and groups can be said to be
in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain
the types of diet, participate in the activities
and have the living conditions and amenities
which are customary, or at least widely
encouraged and approved, in the societies to
which they belong. Their resources are so
seriously below those commanded by the
average individual or family that they are, in
effect, excluded from ordinary living patterns,
customs and activities.
Peter Townsend, Poverty in the UK, 1979
Lack of income and productive resources to
ensure sustainable livelihoods; hunger and
malnutririon; ill health; limited or lack of access to
education and other basic services; increased
morbidity and mortality from illness;
homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe
environments and social discrimination and
exclusion. It is also characterised by lack of
participation in decision-making and in civil,
social and cultural life.
United Nations, 1995
PSE 1999
Four dimensions of exclusion:
•exclusion from adequate income or resources
•labour market exclusion
•service exclusion (including questions of access and
affordability of public and private services)
•exclusion from social relations (including social support,
social networks and participation in common social
activities, as well as factors inhibiting participation)
Sonia Sodha and William Bradley
3D Poverty.
Demos, 2011
Ruth Levitas et al.
to review existing sources on multidimensional disadvantage or severe forms
of social exclusion; to recommend
possibilities for secondary analysis of
existing data sets to explore the dynamics
of social exclusion; to identify any relevant
gaps in the knowledge base; and to
recommend research strategies for filling
such gaps.
Social exclusion is a complex and multidimensional process. It involves the lack or denial
of resources, rights, goods and services, and the
inability to participate in the normal relationships
and activities, available to the majority of people
in a society, whether in economic, social, cultural
or political arenas. It affects both the quality of life
of individuals and the equity and cohesion of
society as a whole.
The Bristol Social Exclusion Matrix (B-SEM)
Material/economic resources
Possession of necessities
Home ownership.
Other assets and savings.
Subjective poverty.
Access to public and private services
Public services
Private services
Access to financial services
Social resources
Institutionalisation/separation from family
Social support
Frequency and quality of social contact
Cultural resources
Basic skills (literacy, numeracy, competence in English)
Educational attainment
Economic participation
Paid work
Providing unpaid care
Undertaking unpaid work
Nature of working life
Quality of working life
Social participation
Participation in common social activities
Social roles.
Cultural participation
Access to/participation in education
Cultural leisure activities
Internet access.
Political and civic participation
Citizenship status
Political participation
Civic efficacy
Civic participation, voluntary activity/membership
Quality of life
Health and well-being
Physical health and exercise
Mental health
Life satisfaction
Personal development
Self-esteem/ personal efficacy
Vulnerability to stigma
Self-harm and substance misuse.
Living environment
Housing quality
Neighbourhood safety
Neighbourhood satisfaction
Access to open space
Crime, harm and criminalisation
Objective safety/victimisation
Subjective safety, for example, perceptions and fear of crime
Exposure to bullying and harassment
Criminal record
Risk factors
•social class
•housing tenure
•household composition
•religious affiliation
•critical life events
Key questions
Are the domains and dimensions of the B-SEM appropriate for
mapping the experience of social exclusion or multi-dimensional
Are the domains and dimensions of the B-SEM appropriate for
mapping the dynamics of multi-dimensional disadvantage?
Are we missing anything that should be included?
What are the best indicators for social resources, especially social
networks as opposed to support?
What are the best indicators for ‘well-being’ – and indeed how
useful a concept is ‘well-being’?
The Bristol Social Exclusion Matrix (B-SEM)

Measuring Social Exclusion - Poverty and Social Exclusion