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Defining and Measuring Social Cohesion

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SOCIAL POLICIES IN SMALL STATES SERIES



The country case studies and thematic papers in this series examine social policy issues facing small states and their implications for economic development. They show how, despite their inherent vulnerability, some small states have been successful in improving their social indicators because of the complementary social and economic policies they have implemented.



THEMATIC PAPER – SOCIAL COHESION



Social cohesion is a concept with multiple definitions and uses in the development community. Its general aim is to ensure that all citizens, without discrimination and on an equal footing, have access to fundamental social and economic rights. Jane Jenson examines this concept in policy debates and assesses its role in social development. Part I examines the literature on social cohesion, identifying three different ‘families’ of usage and the empirical grounding of each. Part II presents a range of indicators that have previously been used to measure social cohesion. Part III provides some discussion of the lessons to be drawn and the indicators that might be used to measure social cohesion in future.

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Lessons and a Proposed Set of Indicators

From this overview of the definition and measurement of social cohesion, we see clearly that it has served as a quasi-concept, one with academic credentials certainly (and surrounded by much academic debate), but also one which serves an important function in policy discourse. As such, it is not different from other concepts in the development and other literatures, such as that on social capital.25

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