Analysing Drivers

What is behind inequality? Tackling inequality requires grasping its underlying causes: the factors that can result in unequal outcomes in society. These drivers of inequality may be global, such as global trade, or national, such as the level of public investment in education. They vary across countries and contexts, so you will need to focus on those that are most relevant for you.


Useful tips before you get started

Identifying and analysing the causes of inequality relevant for your context may be a hard task. You can find here some practical tips that others have found useful.

Use the toolkit to inform your driver analysis:

The Oxfam toolkit suggests broad categories of possible drivers to give you a template for analysis. For example: unequal outcomes in relation to survival and health are caused by – amongst other factors - ‘unequal access to quality and timely healthcare’. You can review these driver categories and find those relevant for you to unpack further. You can also add others that are missing. Also remember that one driver might be relevant to inequalities across multiple domains and inequalities in one domain might driver inequalities in other. These links will become clear in your analysis.

Setting your historical context

We encourage you to do a historical, context-setting exercise before analysing national drivers. Inequality is strongly path-dependent and current inequality patterns are determined by a country’s history. It is wise to ensure teams and taskforces have the opportunity to reflect collectively on their own historical context, and the factors underlying current expressions of inequalities, privilege and exclusion.

How to approach your analysis?

We suggest a “cascade exercise”. Once you have prioritized the domains and drivers you want to go through, for each domain you can pose a broad question, such as “why do some people have access to premium, high quality healthcare services when others have little or no access to quality healthcare?”, and repeatedly ask why. We know this depends on multiple factors. Chart the answers to identify the many causal roots.
Many resources are available to help answer these questions, including statistical analysis or reviewing other types of existing evidence on drivers.

Global and regional drivers of inequalities

There are many potential global and regional drivers of inequalities. The MIF selects ten that Oxfam believes have an impact on inequalities in many countries and, thus, may be relevant for your context too. Find out more in the additional resources.
The 10 broad global and regional drivers suggested are:
  • Dominant narratives, and corresponding policies, that justify and perpetuate inequality
  • Values, norms, practices and structures that perpetuate discrimination and intolerance, especially against women
  • Financialisation, the power of capital and global elites
  • The rise and power of global corporations and the lack of effective regulation
  • Lack of financial transparency and ineffective global tax governance
  • Skewed structure of global trade
  • Climate change and environmental degradation
  • Conflict, global displacement and international migration policies
  • Skewed technological development, scientific progress and innovation
  • Lack of effective global governance

National drivers

The Oxfam toolkit provides a number of possible driver categories by domain. These are the major factors often underlying inequalities. For each of these driver categories, a set of guiding questions is provided to enable an in-depth analysis of the causes of advantage and disadvantage. The options are comprehensive but not exhaustive. If anything is missing, make sure you add it as relevant for your context!

Driver Analysis

  • 1.1Unequal access to, quality and timely healthcare
  • 1.2Unequal access to, quality maternal and child healthcare
  • 1.3Unequal access to clean water, adequate sanitation and good nutrition
  • 1.4Unequal exposure to accidents, disasters and environmental risks
  • 1.5Harmful social and cultural norms which mean certain groups are at greater risk of premature death or poor health
  • 1.6Legal impunity, state violence and institutional discrimination
  • 1.7Unequal distribution of security and protection infrastructure and resources
  • 1.8Lack of regulation of companies whose activities compromise public health

Driver Analysis

  • 2.1Harmful social and cultural norms which mean certain groups are at more risk of violence
  • 2.2Harmful social and cultural norms which mean certain groups have less legal security
  • 2.3Lack of independent, representative judiciary and police, and a legal framework which ensures adequate accountability and public scrutiny of police and judiciary decisions
  • 2.4Legal impunity, state violence and institutional discrimination
  • 2.5Unequal distribution of security and protection infrastructure and resources
  • 2.6Unequal access to affordable and high-quality legal assistance and representation and unequal knowledge of legal rights
  • 2.7Unregulated access to guns and other weapons

Driver Analysis

  • 3.1Unequal access to, high quality education
  • 3.2Harmful social and cultural norms that affect access to education and learning
  • 3.3Lack of provision for special educational needs
  • 3.4Unequal access to early childhood development opportunities in the early years
  • 3.5Unequal access to career guidance, vocational and technical training, apprenticeships, internships
  • 3.6Unequal access to books, technology and the internet
  • 3.7Unequal access to adult learning and education (ALE) opportunities

Driver Analysis

  • 4.1Lack of work opportunities and poor job creation and inadequate active labour market programmes
  • 4.2Weak labour market institutions, precarious and informal forms of work and lack of employment protection
  • 4.3Unequal access to good quality, affordable childcare, elderly care and other family support services
  • 4.4Harmful social and cultural norms which create employment barriers and deny financial independence and security for certain groups
  • 4.5Unequal access to productive resources and markets
  • 4.6Skewed remuneration structures and the lack of regulation of compensation policies and practices
  • 4.7Lack of adequate regulation of the financial sector and financial markets and inadequate provision of debt advice
  • 4.8Lack of progressivity of tax system and tax avoidance and evasion
  • 4.9Lack of appropriate universal social protection floors (social assistance/insurance) particularly for children, working age and pensioners

Driver Analysis

  • 5.1Unequal access to clean water, sanitation and utilities to meet energy needs
  • 5.2Unequal access to good nutrition
  • 5.3Unequal access to safe, secure and quality housing
  • 5.4Harmful social and cultural norms that result in unequal division of domestic and care responsibilities
  • 5.5Unequal access to adequate public transport infrastructure and a healthy environment
  • 5.6Unequal exposure to accidents, disasters and environmental risk.
  • 5.7Unequal access to good quality, affordable childcare, elderly care and other family support services

Driver Analysis

  • 6.1Lack of support for all forms of democratic participation and protection of the civil and political rights of all citizens
  • 6.2Lack of mechanisms that ensure state accountability to citizens
  • 6.3Lack of mechanisms that prevent corruption and the formal and informal use of excessive power and influence by specific groups
  • 6.4Harmful social and cultural norms which diminish the voice, participation, representation and influence of certain groups

Driver Analysis

  • 7.1Lack of policy and institutional frameworks that recognise diversity and promote equality, dignity and respect
  • 7.2Lack of equal legal protection against all forms of discrimination and harassment (bullying) based on identity
  • 7.3Lack of institutional and legal framework protecting individuals’ autonomy, self-determination and a family life
  • 7.4Harmful social and cultural norms which result in the marginalisation of, and discrimination against, certain groups
  • 7.5Unequal access to affordable cultural and leisure activities
Remember … Political capture matters
In terms of inequality, it is possible to have “too much” as well as “too little” of something. Too much influence by some individuals and groups can have a negative effect on other people’s capabilities.
There are growing concerns that extreme wealth inequality has led to political capture by elites, which may be an underlying driver of inequalities across many areas of life. Oxfam has developed a specific methodology to help you unpack how political capture happens.

Concluding your diagnostic

Once you have assessed inequalities by domain and analysed the multiple drivers of the inequalities observed, we suggest you prepare a summary of your findings. No programme or campaign can tackle all of the drivers of inequality effectively. The following questions can help guide your reflections and decision-making:
  • Did your analysis result in the identification of any ‘major drivers’ – drivers that significantly overlap and drive negative outcomes across domains?
  • Which drivers, if tackled effectively, do you think would lead to the most transformative impacts?
  • Which of the drivers that you have analysed do you feel are the most relevant and important in your context?
  • Did your analysis result in the identification of any drivers that Oxfam has not traditionally sought to address, but are important and relevant in your context?