The Social Inclusion Index

In a new regular feature, Americas Quarterly unveils a way to measure, track and compare social inclusion in the Americas.

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What really is social inclusion? From scholars to multilateral banks to President Ollanta Humala of Peru, social inclusion has become the term du jour. Implicitly, most of us understand it as more than development; it includes elements of political participation, social rights, civil liberties, and equal access—across race, ethnicity and gender—to social services and labor markets.

If we can define it, presumably we can also measure it, or at least some components of it. There are a number of evolving and sophisticated efforts currently under way to measure elements of social inclusion. One of these is the World Bank’s excellent Human Opportunity Index that measures circumstances affecting access to goods and services (education and housing). (See Yet social inclusion also contains an element of political voice and freedom that is often lacking in more economic measures.

Here we present the results of measuring multiple dimensions of social inclusion from a series of private and public meetings held with economists, sociologists, representatives of multilateral banks, and political scientists. Does it include everything? Does it strive for consensus? No and no. For this, the first cut, the point is to begin a debate on the concrete dimensions of social inclusion, how to measure it and where countries rank.

Every two years, we will revisit this index to track changes in social inclusion. We will also refine it over time, adjusting, combining and perhaps adding new variables and countries as relevant data become available.

We scored each of the 11 countries relatively for all 15 indicators (Inputs and Outputs), giving each country a score of 1–11 and then converting the totals into a 0–100 scale. READ MORE... All variables were weighted equally. Below is how each country ranks relative to the others in those totals. To the right below we show how the countries ranked in each of the 15 variables (or, in the case of the U.S., in the 7 variables for which we had data). It is within the individual variables that some real surprises occur: Chile lands at 10 in civil society participation, and Bolivia scores well in the areas in which Chile scored poorly—civil society participation and government responsiveness. The latter should give hope for the future, the former perhaps some concern about the need for political renovation in Chile. SHOW LESS

Relative Ranking on 15 Variables

MORE ABOUT THE RANKINGS... That Chile and Uruguay rank the highest in social inclusion is no surprise. The ranking, however, obscures the differences among the countries. Despite coming in third, Brazil’s aggregate score of 51.4 is far below Chile’s (71.9) and Uruguay’s (71.2). Ecuador, in fourth place, was boosted by above-average scores in GDP growth and secondary-school enrollment, though, as mentioned earlier, the latter numbers have been questioned. Mexico’s appearance in the middle of the pack is consistent with its performance across the variables, with one important exception—living on more than $4 per day, which is high even taking into account gender and race. SHOW LESS

Ranking by Other Variables 

Variable by variable, this is how the countries stacked up. READ MORE... One methodological note: for the indicators secondary-school enrollment, daily income, access to adequate housing and access to a formal job, to take into account countrywide rates and differences by gender and race/ethnicity for each category, we calculated the differences between male/female and non-minority/minority and then subtracted those from the overall national percent. The idea was to score countries by their overall performance with penalties for the differences in access by gender and race/ethnicity. The differences were not weighted by population size, based on the assumption that differences in the distribution of resources matter regardless of the size of the population. (Learn how we calculated the variables and the rankings.) SHOW LESS


Social inclusion is the concept that a citizen has the ability to participate in the basic political, economic and social functioning of his or her society. It includes not just economic empowerment, but also access to basic social services, access to infrastructure (physical and institutional), access to the formal labor market, civil and political participation and voice, and the absence of legally sanctioned discrimination based on race, ethnicity or gender. States have the capacity (and responsibility) to directly or indirectly affect these conditions. For this reason we have organized the index into: Inputs to Social Inclusion (the political environment, economic conditions, state policies, and access to services that promote social inclusion) and Outputs of Social Inclusion (the economic, political and policy outcomes that result from policies, rights and economic conditions that lead to social inclusion over the long term).

For each of the 15 variables below, we scored all 11 countries on a relative scale that we then combined and converted to 0–100 (with 100 representing the highest a country could score if it were to outperform its hemispheric neighbors in all 15 variables). We also developed a scale that included the U.S., based on 7 of the variables for which we have data. With the exception of the U.S., the 15-variable relative score is noted for each country card in the lower right corner. (The U.S. score is based only on its performance regionally in the 7 indicators.) The lower a country’s overall score, the lower its ranking.

We rank the 11 countries for which we have data in our Social Inclusion Index, overall and by variable. For more on the methodology we used to calculate the scores and rank the countries, and the data sources we consulted, please visit