Social exclusion

Concept, application and scrutiny


This paper is the first in a series of Social Development Papers, commissioned by the Asian Development bank in 2000, to promote discussion of social development issues that influence development and poverty reduction. This inaugural paper in the series is an exposition by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on an important and often overlooked dimension of poverty–social exclusion.


It is generally recognized that poverty has both material and nonmaterial dimensions. Because of their obvious tangibility, many development practitioners find it easier to understand and address the material dimensions of poverty. The exclusion of the poor from participation in and access to opportunities and activities is a major nonmaterial dimension of poverty that also needs to be recognized and addressed. This paper helps us to understand social exclusion as both a cause and a consequence of poverty. The aim is that the ideas conveyed in the paper will have a dual impact:

  • First, that they will help development practitioners to obtain a better understanding and appreciation of the nonmaterial dimensions of poverty; and
  • Second, that they will stimulate discussion that will help development practitioners to respond effectively to this dimension of poverty reduction.


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