Shame, Humiliation and Social Isolation: Missing Dimensions of Poverty and Suffering Analysis

OPHI Working Papers

While people living in poverty talk about isolation, shame, and humiliation as being key aspects of their lived experiences of suffering, until recently, there has been no international data on these aspects – making them “missing dimensions” within poverty analysis and within research into suffering. Drawing upon international fieldwork and datasets from Chile and Chad, this chapter examines the relevance of social isolation, shame and humiliation in contexts of poverty, to research on suffering. The chapter suggests that the use of particular indicators of shame, humiliation, and social isolation can better recognize distributions of suffering. It can also help identify individuals and sub-groups within those living in multidimensional poverty - or of the general population at large - that are affected by concrete and particularly hurtful situations. Consequently, they can help to identify levels of suffering which are higher within a specific population. We argue that these types of indicators could form the basis of more refined measures that help generate more concise data on suffering.

Citation: Mills, C., Zavaleta, D., and Samuel, K. (2014). 'Shame, humiliation and social isolation: Missing dimensions of poverty and suffering analysis', OPHI Working Papers 71, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

Also published in R.E. Anderson (ed.), 2015, World Suffering and the Quality of Life, New York: Springer, ch. 19.

Multidimensional poverty, shame, humiliation, discrimination, social isolation, loneliness, relational poverty, social connectedness, Chad, Chile
Latin America and the Caribbean
Sub-Saharan Africa

China Mills, Diego Zavaleta and Kim Samuel
Series Name
OPHI Working Papers
Publication date
JEL Codes
C8, I3, Z130
Publication Number
WP 71