A Conceptual and Methodological Review on the Definitions and Measurement of Social Exclusion

In order to characterize the living conditions of people, poverty and inequality have long been the dominant definitions and continue to represent significant challenges in Danish society, even though the risk of poverty in Denmark is low compared to other European countries. From a historical perspective, for many decades after WW2, poverty in Denmark has almost been a forgotten word in the language of politicians and scientists, but social exclusion, as a “new” concept, has in several ways drawn attention away from poverty during the 1990s. The paper poses the issue of what social exclusion, as a concept, can lead to and how it varies from other core concepts, such as poverty and social capital. The overall purpose of the article is to provide a wide-ranging summary of a variety of important scientific concepts. In addition, selected quantitative and qualitative research on social exclusion are included, with a view to problematizing the lack of empirical studies on social exclusion using direct social exclusion measures. All too often, this poses concerns about the degree to which social exclusion or other similar concepts in different academic studies are “measured”. In order to move forward with social exclusion as a term, we have certainly acquired a new direction, but with a different emphasis, because current concepts are still broad enough to include non-material aspects. They are also complex (longitudinal) and already open to factors other than low-income social vulnerability. In the debate on “measurement” of social exclusion, mental health is used as a crucial case to point out flaws in current research studies and to add depth to the discussion of evidence from qualitative studies on causal mechanisms behind social exclusion.

Author(s) Details

Dr. Carsten Kronborg Bak
University College of Southern Denmark, Haderslev, Denmark.

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