Social Indicators Research

, Volume 113, Issue 3, pp 1261-1287

First online:

The Disadvantaged Among the Dutch: A Survey Approach to the Multidimensional Measurement of Social Exclusion

  • J. Cok VroomanAffiliated withThe Netherlands Institute for Social Research/SCP Email author 
  • , Stella J. M. HoffAffiliated withThe Netherlands Institute for Social Research/SCP Email author 

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While combating social exclusion has been a key target of the European Union’s social policy in recent years, the concept remains contested and various ways of measuring its prevalence have been proposed. In the Netherlands a survey-based method has been in use since 2004, which refers to four theoretical elements of social exclusion: material deprivation, limited social participation, inadequate access to basic social rights and a lack of normative integration. In this article we propose an improved and more concise version of the instrument. Using focus groups and cognitive tests, the study first examined whether it adequately covers the different elements of social exclusion. Based on the results, the existing items were reformulated and supplemented. A revised questionnaire was then submitted to a new stratified sample of 650 respondents, randomly drawn from an online panel and a database of people without access to the Internet. The weighted outcomes may be regarded as representative for the entire adult Dutch population, although some caveats apply. Using nonlinear canonical correlation analysis, we identified a single underlying dimension in our new data set. This contains 15 items, with three to four indicators for each of the theoretical elements of social exclusion. According to our general index, just under 5 % of the Dutch population aged 18 years or older are faced with a serious degree of social exclusion. On the four subscales the figure ranges from 7 % (social rights) to 22 % (material deprivation).


Social exclusion Nonlinear canonical correlation analysis Social participation Normative integration Material deprivation Social rights