Social Hierarchy and the Inequalities of Access

Evidence from Rural Southern Laos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


The Asian Development Bank's rural road development scheme in Laos is designed to increase the opportunity for rural communities to participate in neighbouring emerging markets.Yet, this improved infrastructural strategy may result in increased social disparities betweenregions and within communities. This paper addresses the possible impact on intra-communityinequality using endowment and network data from a southern Lao commune. The objective is to analyse the way in which the village hierarchical social structure impedes individuals' ability to access emerging markets. The social hierarchy hinders the benefits of improved roads and marketisation trickling down to the poorest. Disruption to the trickledown effect means that existing rural development and anti-poverty strategies tend to favour the wealthy and well connected, and further marginalise the poor in the community. Therefore, it is crucial to recognise the importance of the village social hierarchy and define its contribution to the persistence of povertyand reinforcement of inequalities of opportunities for the rural poor. Policies need to directlytarget those of lower stratification by addressing underlying reasons for intergenerational inequalities of opportunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-297
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2012

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