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

More details

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.


This is the front cover to IDS Bulletin 475, 'Power, Poverty and Inequality'.

Power, Poverty and Inequality

IDS Bulletin 47.5 (2016)

Ten years on from the landmark 2006 edition of the IDS Bulletin that brought us the ‘powercube’ – a practical approach to power analysis that offered a way of confronting its complexity – we return to the question of how to analyse and act on power in development. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Intersectionality: A Key for Men to Break Out of the Patriarchal Prison?

Reflecting on male gender activists’ lessons from India, this article explores how intersectionality can help men (and women) better understand the structure of patriarchy, by connecting it to other forms of oppression, based on class, caste and age. More details

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Dial ‘N’ for Nutrition? A Landscape Analysis of What We Know About m-Nutrition, m-Agriculture and m-Development

IDS Working Paper 481 (2016)

Child undernutrition is one of the most devastating realities in many parts of the world. Globally in 2015, 159 million children below the age of five years were too short for their age (stunted) and 50 million were too thin for their height (wasted). More details

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The Impact of Digital Technology on Economic Growth and Productivity, and its Implications for Employment and Equality: An Evidence Review

IDS Evidence Report 207 (2016)

As digital technology has begun to ‘eat the world’ it has also influenced the way that humans interact and transact with each other. Thus, it has inevitably had an effect on global, regional, national and local economies. More details

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Distance- and Blended-Learning in Global Health Research: Potentials and Challenges

Global Health Action 9 (2016)

This article introduces a special issue journal produced by Global Health Action, focusing on 'an important set of insights into both the opportunities and the challenges that accompany multi-institute, blended-learning health research training.' More details

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Integrating Sustainable Development: A Foresight Analysis of Interactions Among Competing Development Challenges

IDS Evidence Report 204 (2016)

This report documents explores the interactions among three key goals of international development policy and practice, namely reducing inequalities, accelerating sustainability and building secure and inclusive societies. More details

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Achieving Diverse Development Goals: How can Different Goals be Pursued Together?

IDS Policy Briefing 125 (2016)

In 2015, the international community adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to focus development policy globally. The Goals range across diverse fields of public policy from industry, finance and agriculture to education, sanitation, social protection and environmental stewardship. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Untangling Economic and Political Inequality: the Case of South Africa

South Africa illustrates the deep interconnections of economic, social and political inequalities, ones which can only be broken through new forms of political action. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Challenging Inequalities: Pathways to a Just World. World Social Science Report 2016

The processes influencing declines or increases in inequality are global and interlinked, the responses to these processes are specific, heterogeneous and uneven. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Consequences and Futures of Inequalities (an introduction to Part II)

If we continue on the pathway of growing inequality, what will the consequences be? What are the possibilities of alternative pathways which take us to a fairer world? What will be the critical tipping points along the way? More details

This is the front cover to IDS Bulletin 474, 'Foresight in International Development'.

Foresight in International Development

IDS Bulletin 47.4 (2016)

This issue of the IDS Bulletin focuses on the role of foresight in policy-oriented international development research and seeks to draw attention to the opportunities and challenges associated with the wide range of foresight approaches and methods that help individuals and groups to think about and prepare for different possible futures. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Working Paper 478, 'Inclusive Land Governance in Mozambique: Good Law, Bad Politics?

Inclusive Land Governance in Mozambique: Good Law, Bad Politics?

IDS Working Paper 478 (2016)

This paper analyses inclusive land governance in Mozambique. It focuses on the country’s legal framework and the DUAT, the right to use and benefit from the land. More details

This the front cover to IDS Working Paper 477, '‘Traditional Peoples’ and the Struggle for Inclusive Land Governance in Brazil'.

‘Traditional Peoples’ and the Struggle for Inclusive Land Governance in Brazil

IDS Working Papers 477 (2016)

In recent decades, Brazil has attracted international interest both for the intensity of its land conflicts and for the extent of its land governance innovations. In this report we argue that these innovations have derived from a land governance model shaped by the country’s decentralised political structures. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Working Paper 475, 'Civil Society Innovation and Resilience in the Struggle for the Right to Food in India'.

Civil Society Innovation and Resilience in the Struggle for the Right to Food in India

IDS Working Paper 475 (2016)

India’s national network of social justice activists and civil society organisations helped achieve legal recognition for the Right to Food in the early 2000’s and are engaged in an ongoing struggle to implement the right to food in practice. More details

This is the cover to IDS Working Paper 473, 'Integrating Informal Institutions in Local Governance: Does it Matter?'.

Integrating Informal Institutions in Local Governance: Does it Matter?

IDS Working Paper 473 (2016)

In this paper we add to the literature on ‘informally institutionalised’ relationships between states and citizens by examining the case of a particular type of informal institution – Mjesna Zajednica (MZ) – that operates across the countries of the former Yugoslavia. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Working Paper 470, 'Informality and Inclusive Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa'.

Informality and Inclusive Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa

IDS Working Paper 470 (2016)

Despite relatively high growth rates, improvements in poverty and inequality have been constrained in many developing countries over the last decade, suggesting that economic growth has not been inclusive. In part, this relates to low levels of participation in the formal economy as well as high incidence of informality and unemployment in these countries. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Working Paper 469, 'Informality and Inclusive Growth in Latin America: The Case of Colombia'.

Informality and Inclusive Growth in Latin America: The Case of Colombia

IDS Working Paper 469 (2016)

The purpose of this research is to understand the impact of informality on inclusive growth in Latin America, and particularly in Colombia. The relationship between informality and inclusive growth is represented by two different hypotheses. More details

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Reframing Development in a Dynamic Global Era

IDS Development Frames 001 (2016)

Half a decade on from IDS' founding, the words of renowned economist and first IDS Director Dudley Seers from his IDS Communication ‘The Meaning of Development’ still ring true. Every era's ‘international development’ community should grapple with its definitions. Today, we face interconnected challenges which look set to intensify into the future. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Practice Paper InBrief, 'Making the ‘Evolutionary Leap’: Using Open Knowledge Approaches to Improve Development Outcomes'.

Making the ‘Evolutionary Leap’: Using Open Knowledge Approaches to Improve Development Outcomes

IDS Practice Paper InBrief 25 (2016)

The starting point of the Open Knowledge Hub project was our belief that the adoption of so-called ‘Open Knowledge’ approaches had the potential to improve the impact of research evidence on development outcomes and address inequalities in the visibility, accessibility and uptake of diverse knowledge about development. More details

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Avenues for Donors to Promote Sexuality and Gender Justice

IDS Policy Briefing 120 (2016)

Donor agencies agree that addressing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI) is not only an important human rights issue but is also integral to efforts to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable development. More details