Reducing Inequalities

A pattern of rising economic, social and political inequalities threatens to undermine progress in tackling the poverty that harms people in rich and poor countries alike. Inequalities exist in all areas, from unevenly shared wealth to ingrained discrimination on the basis of gender, and towards those living in the poorest communities or at society's margins. These inequalities undermine citizen engagement and fuel civil unrest, violence and conflict.

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Inequalities in 21st century

Countries experiencing rapid economic growth – such as China and India – have witnessed growing inequality. Apparent economic growth successes in some of the lowest-income countries in Africa have also been very unevenly distributed, with benefits accruing to a small group of elite, privileged people and places, while failing to contribute to broader livelihoods and wellbeing.

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IDS' contribution to reducing inequalities

Our work aims to contribute to reducing these inequalities by providing and sharing new knowledge and evidence to identify their underlying causes and the progressive policies and practices that can help bring about transformative change.

2016 World Social Science Report on Inequalities

In 2016 IDS' Director, Melissa Leach and Director of Research, John Gaventa, co-directed the World Social Science Report ‘Challenging Inequalities – Pathways to a Just World.

Graffiti on a wall of children looking up

Read more about our work on inequalities in our latest Annual Review 2017

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Beatriz Aguirre Martinez More details

Photo of Cathérine Müller, Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction research team More details

Photo of Danny Burns, IDS Participation, Power and Social Change Team leader More details

Photo of Deepta Chopra, IDS Governance and Gender / Sexuality Research Fellow More details

Photo of Deepta Chopra, IDS Governance and Gender / Sexuality Research Fellow More details

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Gauthier Marchais, Research Fellow in the Conflict and Violence research cluster at IDS More details

Photo of Giulia Mascagni More details

Photo of Jackie Shaw, Research Fellow in the Participation research cluster More details

Jalia Kangave, IDS research fellow More details

Photo of Jerker Edstrom More details

Photo of Jodie Thorpe, Globalisation research fellow More details

Juan-Carlos Munoz-Mora photo More details

Photo of Keetie Roelen, Research Fellow in the Centre for Social Protection, IDS More details

Photo of Lyla Mehta More details

Photo of IDS researcher, Mariz Tadros More details

Photo of Melissa Leach, IDS Director More details

Photo of Mick Moore, Professorial Fellow with Governance team More details

Photo of Patricia Justino, IDS Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Research Fellow More details

Photo of Pauline Oosterhoff, Research Fellow, Participation Power and Social Change More details

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Assessment of the Impact of Gender Equality Programming on Humanitarian Outcomes

This project will develop understanding of how and under what conditions GEP has or has not contributed to improved humanitarian outcomes. It will accumulate an evidence base that can be harnessed to inform decision makers' discussions in the area of GEP, and inform the design of gender-responsive humanitarian interventions. More details

Balancing unpaid care work and paid work

The 'Balancing unpaid care work and paid work: successes, challenges and lessons for women's economic empowerment programmes and policies' project aims to create knowledge about how women's economic empowerment (WEE) policy and programming can generate paid work that empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities. More details

Coptic Culture Conservation Collective

The Coptic Culture Conservation Collective initiative will create a narrative and visual archive of contemporary Coptic intangible cultural heritage. More details

Cutting Edge Programme on Gender and Social Movements

The BRIDGE Edge Programme on Gender and Social Movements aims to inspire and support collaborative approaches to mobilisation around shared equity and justice concerns. More details

Disadvantaged Groups and Social Mobility

Bruno Martorano and Patricia Justino will analyse group-based inequalities in Mexico and write a paper on the topic of ‘The impact of the recent crisis in Mexico on economic and political inequalities among minorities’ that discusses and advances an argument about patterns and trends. More details

Engendering Men: Evidence on Routes to Change for Gender Equality (EMERGE)

Our goal is to enable stronger leadership for working with boys and men to promote gender equality. We will do this by gathering, inter-relating and analysing evidence and lessons. These will be strategically disseminated in targeted and accessible formats for improved learning, policy and practice. More details

Highlighting the Invisibility of Unpaid Care

This is a three year project explores why unpaid care work is merited little attention in development policy and programming. We are taking an action learning approach to engaging policy actors on unpaid care, tracking the effects, successes and failures of our policy influencing activities. More details

Market Systems Approaches to Enabling Women's Economic Empowerment through Addressing Unpaid Carework

Market systems programmes are increasingly recognising the important role that women play in market activity and including women’s economic empowerment and gender equality objectives. However, unpaid care work is a significant and regularly overlooked factor which affects women’s economic, political and social activities. More details

Men, Masculinities and HIV

The Men, Masculinities and HIV project is one of the workstreams of the Gender, Power and Sexuality (GPS) programme, funded by Sida. This work stream aims to influence norms and institutions at global and local levels to more effectively tackle the challenge of achieving gender equality, and particularly looking at the role of men in this process. More details

National Health Systems From a Comparative Perspective: Studies of Local, Regional and Participatory Management (Decentralisation, Participation and Equity in the English NHS)

This study examines the Brazilian National Health System (SUS) in comparison with the National Health Service (NHS) in England, in order to develop proposals for reform towards an effective, universal, quality health system in Brazil. More details

Participation and Gender Justice: Political Empowerment

This project is part of the Gender, Power and Sexuality Programme, funded by Sida. The project is working on two parallel initiatives, firstly, exploring political empowerment programmes for women and secondly, engaging with the international community to challenge and expose gendered forms of violence, particularly when this is politically motivated. More details

Pathways to Inclusive Development through Innovation, Technology and Change

Pathways to Inclusive Development through Innovation, Technology and Change is developing a framework to analyse alternative pathways that link different forms of technological innovation, and evaluate resulting structural change and inclusion outcomes in low-income countries. More details

Sexuality and Local Voices

The Sexuality and Development project is one of the workstreams of the Gender, Power and Sexuality (GPS) Programme, funded by Sida. More details

Voices for Change 'Gender Hub'

IDS knowledge-sharing professionals are developing a prototype e-hub for gender experts in Nigeria More details

Womens Economic Inequality and VAWG consultancy

In this consultancy, Marinella Leone is developing evidence to support arguments and recommendations made in the ActionAid report exploring the interlinkages between women’s economic inequality/ neoliberal policies and Violence against women and girls (VAWG). More details

Youth in Fragile Settings

This project aims to build an evidence base that maps the role young people – particularly young women – have played in contributing to processes that sought to or did address fragility as well as examine gaps and challenges with the ultimate aim of increasing the voice and participation of young people around the world. More details

View all Research Theme's publications

Use this search to display this theme's publications and filter by journal, author, country and much more.


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Non-IDS publication

Welfare Spending and Political Conflict in Latin America, 1970-2010

World Development 107 (2018)

In this article we study an age-old question in political economy: does government spending on welfare ensure peace? This question was at the heart of the European Welfare State model of the early 20th century, and remains relevant today in face of rising inequalities and political conflict. More details

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Energy Protests in Fragile Settings: The Unruly Politics of Provisions in Egypt, Myanmar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe, 2007–2017

IDS Working Paper 513 (2018)

How do popular protests about the basics of everyday life, specifically about energy, come about in settings where political authority is fragmented and conflict and repression common? How do state and political actors respond to protests which disrupt social and economic life, and undermine public authority? To what extent do such mass protests, often justified as inherently moral struggles over the basics of everyday life, empower the powerless or hold the powerful to account in such political settings? And how do external actors shape these events? More details

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Inclusive Urban Development in South Africa: What Does It Mean and How Can It Be Measured?

IDS Working Paper 512 (2018)

Inclusive development is the seductive idea that a more dynamic and productive economy can go hand in hand with reduced inequality and exclusion. This requires crafting together different values and realities, through cooperation and negotiation between different economic and social interests. This is particularly difficult in South Africa because of the deep-seated social divisions and stagnant economy. More details

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Wellbeing and Protracted Urban Displacement: Refugees and Hosts in Jordan and Lebanon

The war in Syria, now in its eighth year, has led to the mass exodus of the Syrian people. Lebanon and Jordan have achieved a remarkable feat by hosting millions of refugees, with many having located to urban areas, where the great majority of local populations are already situated. More details

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Improving the Wellbeing of Syrian Refugees in Urban Jordan

IDS Policy Briefing 152 (2018)

While 20 per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan reside in camps, the majority live elsewhere including in urban areas. Syrian refugees are experiencing high levels of insecurity, often due to challenges with legal status documentation. More details

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Urban Refugees in Lebanon: Housing, Residency, and Wellbeing

IDS Policy Briefing 151 (2018)

Lebanon hosts over a million Syrian refugees in addition to other displaced groups. These refugees have gravitated to urban centres, putting significant pressure on local infrastructure and services. More details

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The Relationship between Perceptions of Inequality and Political Participation: The Case of the Western Balkans

IDS Working Paper 509 (2018)

This paper discusses how disparities and in particular perceptions of inequality may have influenced political participation in Western Balkans over the last years. The arrival of the international crisis in the last quarter of 2008 has had not only economic but also significant political consequences on the region. More details

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What Are the Implications of Ageing and Demographic Change in Rwanda?

IDS Policy Briefing 150 (2018)

Having made rapid improvements in life expectancy and fertility as a result of significant investments in the health system and reductions in poverty, Rwanda faces the positive prospects of a ‘demographic dividend’. However, the projected growth in the number of older people over the next 30 years will present significant challenges. More details

VAWG Legislation - Helpdesk Research Report

The purpose of this VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) Helpdesk paper is to provide a brief overview of what types of legislative reform are most effective in protecting women and girls from VAWG. More details

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How Do We Research Tax Morale at the Subnational Level?

IDS Working Paper 506 (2018)

One of the most effective ways of increasing voluntary tax compliance is by improving tax morale. Several studies have been undertaken to examine why some individuals pay taxes while others do not. While many of these studies have been conducted at the national level, there is an increasing body of research at the subnational level. More details

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Bringing Together Voices to Address Climate Change Uncertainty in the Indian Sundarbans

IDS Policy Briefing 149 (2018)

The majority of the five million people that live in the deltaic Indian Sundarbans face continuous uncertainties in relation to their shelter, livelihoods, and health. Climate change is one of the key factors aggravating this situation. More details

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Gender and Intersecting Inequalities in Local Government in South Asia

IDS Working Paper 507 (2018)

This paper is an evidence review of how intersecting forms of inequalities influence women’s political participation and representation at the local level in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Do Trees on Farms Matter in African Agriculture

World Bank (2018)

This study highlights the prevalence and importance of trees in African agriculture. Trees on farms provide a significant source of income for many households across the continent. More details

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Navigating Power and Intersectionality to Address Inequality

IDS Working Paper 504 (2017)

This paper examines the drivers of inequality and social exclusion, especially discrimination, with a focus on how they intersect at the levels of family, community and local government institutions. The paper reviews current literature and emerging research, drawing on empirical work being carried out by the authors in Central and Eastern Europe, the UK and Africa. More details

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No Time to Rest: Women’s Lived Experiences of Balancing Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work

Synthesis Report (2017)

This report provides evidence on the lived experiences of women in low-income families, as they strive to balance their paid work and unpaid care work responsibilities. It presents the findings of a mixed-methods research project carried out in India, Nepal, Rwanda, and Tanzania during 2015–17. More details

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Biocultural Approaches: Opportunities for Building More Inclusive Environmental Governance

IDS Working Paper 502 (2017)

A significant portion of the world’s remaining biodiversity and agrobiodiversity is in the hands of local and indigenous communities who tend to be politically marginalised and thus excluded from formal environmental governance schemes. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Patterns and dynamics of bonded labour, child labour and child marriage in the Nepali Eastern Terai: Findings from life story analysis

This is a report of the analysis of multiple life stories collected across the Freedom Fund slavery and bonded labour hotspot in the Eastern Terai of Nepal. Life stories were analysed by NGO fieldwork staff and community representatives at the Collective Story Analysis workshop held 5-9th March 2017. More details

Supporting the Poorest and Most Vulnerable in CLTS Programmes

Supporting the Poorest and Most Vulnerable in CLTS Programmes

CLTS Knowledge Hub Learning Paper (2017)

This Learning Paper discusses ways the poorest and most vulnerable can be supported both through strengthening the CLTS process and the introduction of support mechanisms. It focuses on strengthening the CLTS process, identifying and targeting people for support, the sequencing of support mechanisms, roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and the different support mechanisms and the associated risks. More details

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‘My Work Never Ends’: Women’s Experiences of Balancing Unpaid Care Work and Paid Work through WEE Programming in India

IDS Working Paper 494 (2017)

This paper seeks to lay bare the contours and consequences of the relationship between paid work and unpaid care work for women in low-income households, in order to better understand the relationship between women’s participation in paid work and ‘economic empowerment’. More details

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‘How Can It Be a Problem If You Need Them Both?’ Women Juggling Paid and Unpaid Care Work in Tanzania

IDS Working Paper 495 (2017)

This paper summarises the findings of mixed-methods research that was carried out in Tanzania as part of the ‘Balancing Unpaid Care Work and Paid Work: Successes, Challenges and Lessons for Women’s Economic Empowerment Programmes and Policies’ research project (2015–17). It reflects the voices and experiences of women and their household members participating in women’s economic empowerment (WEE) programmes across four sites in the rural districts of Korogwe and Lushoto in Tanga region. More details

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