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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Social Indicators Research
Title Conceptualising and Measuring Social Cohesion in Africa: Towards a perceptions-based index
Volume 131
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2017
Page numbers 321-343
URL https://lirias.kuleuven.be/bitstream/123456789/508772/1/wp21.pdf
Social cohesion is a key concept in development studies. Weak social cohesion is
often related to slow economic growth and (violent) conflict. So far few attempts have
been made to measure this complex concept in a systematic manner. This paper
introduces an innovative method to measure national-level social cohesion based on
survey data from 19 African countries. We distinguish three dimensions of social
cohesion; i.e. the extent of perceived inequalities, the level of societal trust, and the
strength of people’s adherence to their national identity. Importantly, our social
cohesion index is based on individuals’ perceptions vis-à-vis these three different
dimensions of social cohesion rather than certain macro-level ‘objective’ indicators
such as GDP/capita or Gini-coefficients. We develop two social cohesion indices: a
national average Social Cohesion Index (SCI) and a Social Cohesion Index VarianceAdjusted
(SCIVA); the latter one takes into account the level of variation across
different ethnic groups within countries. The SCI and SCIVA are computed for and
compared across nineteen African countries for the period 2005-2012 on the basis of
Afrobarometer survey rounds 3, 4 and 5. We also investigate quantitatively the
relationship between countries’ levels of social cohesion and the occurrence of a range
of conflict events. As expected, we find that countries with low levels of social cohesion
in a particular year according to our SCI are more likely to experience a range of
different conflict events in the subsequent year.

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