The Social Inclusion Index
In its second year, AQ's Social Inclusion Index adds three new variables, expands to four more countries, and includes new data on race and gender. Fresh data show improving trends in some countries and some curious contradictions.
Social inclusion has become a fashionable topic among policymakers, scholars and business. Implicit in the discussion is that the concept is broader than economic development and the reduction of poverty, and includes elements of political accountability, political, civil and human rights, and access to public and private goods without discrimination. Americas Quarterly identified 21 variables that make up social inclusion, measuring access to markets, social services, formal jobs, popular attitudes toward the government and personal empowerment, and participation in civil society, by race/ethnicity and gender, as well as political, civil, women’s and LGBT rights. Below is a country-by-country scorecard of how the region measures up when it comes to social inclusion.
Two major changes have occurred in the 2013 regional Social Inclusion Index rankings since last year. They are difficult to discern because this year—as we will do in the future—we included four more countries in the overall survey (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama) and ranked the United States, though it lacked data for eight variables. In addition, we disaggregated civil society participation, personal empowerment and sense of government responsiveness by gender and race/ethnicity. To more easily compare this year with last, we untangled updated results from the new additions below.
First, Uruguay moved up to claim the top spot over Chile. The change is partly due to the addition of two of the three new indicators—women’s rights, where Uruguay ranks third and Chile ranks ninth; and LGBT rights, where Uruguay is tied for first and Chile is tied for seventh. In most of the other variables, the two countries maintained their relative positions, with both ranking consistently in the top quarter for all the variables, and scoring first or second in political and civil rights. Chile placed near the top in women’s sense of personal empowerment and their access to adequate housing, and placed third to the U.S. and Brazil for the financial inclusion of women. Uruguay led the ranking in percentage of GDP spent on social programs, perceptions of government responsiveness by both gender and race, and access to a formal job.
One clear takeaway is that both countries (despite Chile’s lower score on women’s rights) have made strides in gender equality, which boosted their scores overall and correlated with other measures of inclusion.
A second change in this year’s ranking is Colombia’s slump by one place: from fifth in 2012 to sixth (among the countries measured last year)—and ninth this year overall. Colombia’s strong GDP growth in 2013 placed it fifth overall (third compared to the countries in last year’s survey), but low scores in civil rights, poverty by gender and personal empowerment across race/ethnicity and gender, weakened it. And this was in spite of its strong scores in two of the three new variables: women’s rights (tied for third) and LGBT rights (tied for fifth). Colombia scored comparatively low in women’s financial inclusion (ninth, followed by Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, and Nicaragua).
While not dramatic changes, two other results are noteworthy. The first is Brazil’s landing in fifth place this year. While the result of the addition of two new countries that scored above it (U.S. and Costa Rica), its aggregate score (53.5) is markedly lower than the score of the top three countries: Uruguay (75.5); Chile (68.4); and the U.S. (64.6). The second is the tragically low score of Guatemala at 14.8.
Of course, greater social inclusion is a worthy goal—for economic and moral reasons—in and of itself. This year, though, we compared the Social Inclusion rankings with the homicide rates in those countries, using 2010 data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The purpose was not to measure causality but to see correlation. (In fact, any causality between the two measures would flow both ways: social exclusion and marginality may contribute to violence, but violence also exacerbates social exclusion and marginality.)
Four trends stand out in comparing rates of social inclusion with rates of violence.
The first is the clear grouping of countries at the top of the ranking. The comparison at the bottom is less clear, with the two lowest countries in the Social Inclusion ranking placing 14th and 16th in the violence ranking with El Salvador in between. (Note: The El Salvador numbers pre-dated the truce between the MS-13 and Barrio 18.)
But above that there is no clear relationship. Nicaragua and Paraguay, while 13th and 14th on the Social Inclusion Index, rank eighth and seventh in the violence index; Bolivia and Peru also score better in terms of violence than social inclusion—all an indication that violence, or lack of it, is contingent on more than just underdevelopment and exclusion.
Another pattern is the discrepancy between higher social inclusion scores and higher rates of violence in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, and Costa Rica. The violence ranking of the first two comes as no surprise, given the narcotics-related crime that has plagued those countries. The score for Costa Rica, though, is particularly troubling, given that Costa Rica scores at the bottom in terms of civil society participation and perception of government responsiveness (both by gender and race) and the news of a growing narcotrafficking presence in the country.
Clearly, there’s much more here than space will allow us to summarize and elaborate upon. We invite you to review the data, results and the rankings for all the variables on our website at www.americasquarterly.org/socialinclusionindex2013, and offer your suggestions for next year’s Index.