Although social exclusion has become a key issue on the European
policy agenda in recent years, both the social phenomena the term refers to and
the best way to monitor these remain unclear. In response to this, we developed
a conceptual model for social exclusion and a methodology for its empirical
assessment. Social exclusion is conceived as a multidimensional concept. It is
operationalized as a combination of material deprivation, insufficient
access to social rights, a low degree of social participation and a lack of
In a survey among 860 Dutch households we found a valid scale which expresses the degree of social exclusion in a single figure. This measure indicates that about 11% of the adult population may be regarded as socially excluded.
A causal analysis subsequently showed that having bad health is the most important risk factor. Other main determinants of social exclusion are a low income, benefit dependency, limited Dutch language skills, and living in a single-parent household.
The outcomes suggest that it is worthwhile to strive for a specific measurement of social exclusion as such, and that the concept should not be equated with shortfalls in income and labour participation, as the current European policy debate tends to do.