In quest of inclusive progress: exploring intersecting inequalities in human development

Research reports and studies
October 2015
Amanda Lenhardt and Emma Samman
For 16 countries with appropriate data, this paper seeks to ascertain to what extent wealth status, urban/rural place of residence and ethnicity – and overlaps between them – explain inequalities in education and health; and how these inequalities have changed over time. The focus is on women’s years of education and on the proportion of children in a household who have died.

Key messages:

  • The poorest women from disadvantaged ethnic groups are the most likely to have been ‘left behind’ by progress in human development in 16 countries with available data. In 11 countries, this group has the fewest average years of education, and in 14 countries, it has the highest levels of child deaths.
  • Inequalities associated with where a woman resides within a country, her ethnic group and her household’s wealth quintile – and the overlap of these factors – are sizeable in many countries. The combination of living in a rural area and being from a minority ethnic group is particularly pernicious in many countries.
  • Inequality in education associated with wealth and ethnicity has changed less over the past 20 years than any of the other ‘intersections’ we explore.
  • Preliminary exploration suggests that intersecting inequalities heighten disadvantage – beyond the impact of the separate components. This has implications for how such inequalities are experienced and addressed.
  • Many of the remedial policies needed are country specific, but there is also an international lens. Policy actions should prioritise people with overlapping disadvantages. It is crucial to monitor the SDGs at a disaggregated level, which in turn will require better data.