Economic and political inequalities among groups—for example, between Muslims and Hindus in India; between northern and southern Nigerians; or between ladinos and indigenous people in Bolivia, Guatemala, and Peru—are often significant and multidimensional, causing much resentment and even violent political protest.
Moreover, as global migration accelerates and societies become more heterogeneous, the prevalence and significance of group inequalities is rising. Abundant policy, theory, and measurements focus on inequalities among individuals (so-called vertical inequalities), but far less work has been done on inequalities among groups (horizontal inequalities, or HI for short).
Inequalities among groups are important from a number of perspectives: they may adversely affect the well-being of members of the deprived groups, hinder efforts to eradicate poverty, lead to unfair and exclusionary societies, impede the full realization of economic potential, and raise the risk of violent conflict.
The popular conception of social exclusion and HI hold much in common. A group or groups are said to be socially excluded when they are marginalized politically, economically, or socially, often on multiple levels. However, while similar policy recommendations stem from social exclusion and HI approaches, HI is more precise and draws attention to richer, as well as poorer, groups. For this reason, this brief focuses on HI, exploring the types of inequalities involved, why these inequalities matter, and what policy options—and associated implementation constraints—exist to address this form of discrimination and inequality.