Kim Samuel, Diego Zavaleta, and China Mills of the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) have released a working paper Social Isolation: A Conceptual and Measurement Proposal that contributes to the debate on social connectedness and its measurement by:
- Presenting a working definition that stresses relational features in the life experience of people
- Emphasizing the relevance of isolation for poverty analysis
- Proposing some indicators to measure social connectedness that could be feasibly incorporated into a multi-topic household survey.
The paper argues for the need to explore data on the external characteristics of social connectedness (the frequency of social contact, the social network support of a person, and intensity of volunteering) as well as its internal characteristics (satisfaction with social relations, sense of relatedness, feeling of belonging to one’s own neighbourhood/village/community, loneliness, and trust). These indicators emphasise direct measures of, and stress the self-evaluation of, social connectedness. Building on a wide body of research on aspects of social relations, the proposed indicators follow the guidelines of major initiatives to improve the measurement of human progress. These indicators need to be tested in large surveys alongside traditional socio-economic indicators, and in international contexts, in order to test both their validity and usefulness for poverty analysis.