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Developing an index that is capable of measuring inclusivity and marginality across many of the full range of human differences is an immense challenge. The Inclusiveness Index attempts to meet this challenge by selecting universal indicators that reflect group-based marginality in any context. In addition, the Inclusiveness Index relies on data sets for those indicators that can be measured across a range of social groupings.

In developing this index, we were guided by the conviction that multifactor indices paint a more vivid portrait of underlying structural conditions and forms of advantage and disadvantage experienced by marginalized groups than any single indicator, such as poverty or per capita GDP. Single indicator metrics fail to capture the myriad of inputs that shape individual and group life chances.1 As a multifactor index that incorporates six core indicators of inclusivity, each indicator is given a preassigned weight within the Inclusiveness Index.

Another practical criterion for inclusion was that each indicator had to be scalable to the global level. Developing a global country ranking would not be possible if similar data sets did not exist for a sufficient number of countries to justify a global ranking. Not only are there a multiplicity of measures across nations for similar information, but some countries track and collect data sets that others do not. We were also limited by data sets that were commensurate or comparable across geographies and national boundaries.

Finally, we wanted our indicators to reflect cultural norms, policies, laws, and institutional practices rather than economic strength or tax base capacity. Otherwise, any measure or ranking of inclusivity risks becoming a function of national wealth. In the Inclusiveness Index, the poorest nations on the planet are capable of faring best in terms of inclusivity, while the wealthiest are capable of faring the worst. Insofar as possible, the indicators are noneconomic, and not proxies for governmental expenditures or investments in human capital, but rather reflect legal and institutional regimes.

In reviewing the range of possible indicators for the Inclusiveness Index, we ultimately selected six domains that we believe reflect the inclusivity or exclusion of marginalized populations: out-group violence, political representation, income inequality, antidiscrimination laws, rates of incarceration, and immigration or asylum policies. We explain the selection of these domains immediately below. Within these domains, we selected indicators that measure how various demographic subgroups fare, including by gender; LGBTQ populations; people with disabilities; and racial, ethnic, and religious subgroups.

Outgroup Violence

Out-group violence is a direct indicator of group marginalization and oppression. Disproportionate violence suffered by discrete social groups reflects prejudice toward those groups as well as group vulnerability. For example, in the United States, lynching of African Americans in the early twentieth century or assaults on LGBTQ people in more recent decades reflects both prejudice as well as vulnerability. This is also true internationally, where ethnic or religious conflict may result in violence and fatalities, with genocide being an extreme expression.

Political Representation

Political representation and the extent to which citizens are able to participate in governance is another strong indicator of group-based marginality or relative inclusion. In democratic societies, ethnic, racial, or religious majorities are capable of outvoting minority groups in electoral politics. This can result in underrepresentation of minority groups. Similarly, if certain groups are marginalized within a society, even if they are not a numerical minority, we might also expect members of those groups to be underrepresented in electoral politics. If members of certain groups, such as women or religious or racial minorities, are consistently underrepresented in elected bodies, that is often suggestive of marginality. Although there may be limited choices ideologically or between political affiliation and party membership in some nations, there may still be a choice among social group membership. Political representation among appointed representatives is less indicative of marginality than representation among elected representatives because, in the case of appointments, democratic majorities lack direct say. For that reason, we only look at elected officials rather than appointments.

Income Inequality

Group-level income inequality is a revealing indicator of group-based marginality. It not only reflects discrimination in the provision of educational resources, investment in human capital, and employment opportunities, but may also be indicative of discrimination in private markets and segregation in social networks.3 The degree of income inequality within a nation or state is not dependent upon the size of the economy or the wealth of a nation, but is rather a function of political institutions, cultural norms, and law.4 In other words, group-level income inequality does not depend on the size of the economic pie, but the distribution of that pie among groups.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

The presence of antidiscrimination laws protecting marginalized groups is another direct indicator of institutional inclusion. Examples include laws that prohibit government and private discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, disability, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Explicit protections for marginalized populations and social groups through antidiscrimination laws reflect not only a society’s commitment to equality norms for minority or marginalized groups, but also the presence of a discriminatory problem requiring a policy and legal response. Enacting antidiscrimination laws is not an easy task, especially where a marginalized group is an unpopular minority or lacks political clout or influence.5 Such laws often reflect broad consensus about the moral and practical necessity of enacting such protections.

Rates of Incarceration

Marginality and inclusivity are often most dramatically evident in a nation’s use of criminal law enforcement and incarceration differential rates. Criminal law reflects the cultural norms and values of the dominant group, and its enforcement through incarceration and other forms of criminal punishment are often inflected with social biases. Even in the absence of state oppression against minority or marginalized populations, incarceration rates may reflect cultural or social prejudices that disparately impact marginalized groups. Rates of incarceration more broadly reflect institutional and legal structures that impede inclusivity.

Rates of incarceration vary dramatically from state to state domestically and country to country globally. Lower rates of incarceration are sometimes reflective of more inclusive cultural norms generally, and an emphasis on rehabilitation and reentry over retribution and punishment. Differential rates of incarceration across subgroups, specifically, serve as an indirect measure of cultural perceptions of those subgroups and their relative social position within a society. For especially marginalized social groups, criminal law is a tool of social control that may result in higher rates of incarceration and punishment. This is why differential rates of incarceration by group is an indicator of inclusivity within the Index.

Immigration / Asylum Policies

Another indicator of a society’s degree of inclusiveness and group-based marginality within it is the society’s or nation’s immigration or asylum policies. These policies are reflective of the values and perspectives of the society vis-à-vis the marginalized group and how welcoming or tolerant the dominant group is of out-groups. For example, Uganda has made hosting refugees a core national policy, making it “one of the most welcoming countries in the world.”6 As an example of exclusionary immigration policies, the United States infamously had the Chinese Exclusion Act, quotas on many ethnic and racial groups, and a blanket prohibition on African immigration shortly after its founding. Strains of nativism and xenophobia tend to not only reflect the openness of a society with respect to the immigrant group, but also the degree of inclusivity within a society.

Each of these indicators reveals something distinctive about a nation’s or state’s inclusiveness. Finding data sources and measures for each indicator among many nations is a challenge, but not an impossibility. A complete list of measures used for each indicator and a description of sources is provided in the appendix of this report along with a more detailed explanation of the index calculation methodology.