Equality Data Improvement Programme (EDIP) - structural intersectional inequality in Scotland project overview: October 2021

Paper from the meeting of the group on 27 October 2021.


Intersectionality was first defined in a 1989 academic paper by Kimberlé Crenshaw to express the double discrimination faced by Black women in America. Crewshaw stated that “Intersectionality is a metaphor for understanding the ways that multiple forms of inequality or disadvantage sometimes compound themselves and create obstacles that often are not understood among conventional ways of thinking”. She described how Black women face the simultaneous discrimination of sexism and racism (and therefore gendered racism, or racist sexism). Intersectional thinking understands that structures of oppression are not separate from one another, but rather are all interlinked and compound one another.

In their 2020 Report and Recommendations, the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) define intersectionality as “a framework for understanding how multiple categories of identity (such as gender, race and class) interact in ways that create complex systems of oppression and power”.

The NACWG highlights that intersectionality is about assessing how the decisions in the room are made, what these decisions are, whether critical analysis of systems and multiple discriminations is taking place, as well as consideration on how people who are at the precipice of these discriminations are likely to be impacted by the decision.

Without data to evidence and understand the unique challenges experienced by people facing multiple forms of inequality, it is possible that people in Scotland are ‘falling through the cracks’ in policy making and service delivery. However, at present, there are many costs and challenges to collecting, analysing and reporting intersectional equality data and, despite some improvements in recent years, there remains significant gaps.

Project objectives

The objectives of this project are to:

  • review existing research literature to understand what is meant by ‘intersectionality’ and provide practical examples of how the concept of intersectionality can be utilised to understand structural inequality in Scotland
  • scope statistical and automation techniques that might allow for greater intersectional analysis of key survey data sets, including population surveys such as the Family Resources Survey, Annual Population Survey, Scottish Household Survey and Scottish Health Survey
  • identify good practice examples of intersectional research and analysis from academia, the public sector and international bodies
  • use the available research literature to identify key structural intersecting inequalities in Scotland
  • identify evidence gaps in the available data on key structural intersectional inequalities and set out ways in which these gaps could be filled

The outputs of this project are intended to increase knowledge and practice among analysts and policy-makers in the Scottish public sector.

Project scope

This project will comprise three key phases.

Phase one

The first phase will comprise a literature review of a range of evidence, including both peer-reviewed academic literature and grey literature, supplemented with other desk-based research as required to identify:

  • what is meant by the concept of intersectionality
  • examples of how the concept of intersectionality has been used to identify and understand structural inequality
  • statistical approaches to carrying out intersectional data analysis
  • challenges in data analysis

Phase two

The second phase will comprise a review of available data sources across the public sector in Scotland, including key administrative datasets and population surveys, to identify:

  • where intersectional data breakdowns are already provided
  • where intersectional data breakdowns could be provided, noting the protected characteristic variables collected and the available sample size
  • the scope to automate/streamline intersectional data from population surveys, informed by the views of administrative data owners and population survey managers, to increase the available intersectional equality data whilst minimising burden on analysts, the role of data linkage will also be considered

Some of this information will be gathered through the Equality Data Audit.

Phase three

The third phase of this project will use the findings from the first and second phases to:

  • identify 10 to15 key structural intersectional inequalities in Scotland
  • summarise the available evidence currently available relating to these intersectional inequalities
  • identify the evidence gaps relating to these intersectional inequalities
  • set out how these evidence gaps could be filled through qualitative and quantitative data collection

Phases one to three will be carried out in-house by analysts in the Scottish Government’s Equality Analysis Team. If these phases do not produce innovative ideas or identify key structural intersectional inequalities, we could consider a competitive commission to seek good practice ideas from academia or international bodies.

Project deliverables

The deliverables are as follows:

  • a report (no longer than 30 pages) outlining findings from phase one
  • a paper (no longer than 10 pages) outlining findings and recommendations from phase two
  • a report (no longer than 50 pages) outlining findings from phase three
  • summary slide pack outlining key findings from phases one to three

Timescales and milestones

Phase one

Literature review on definitions and approaches to intersectional analysis by 3 September 2021.

Interim key findings summary by 1 October 2021

Feedback on key findings summary by 22 October 2021

First draft report by 12 November 2021

Feedback on first draft report by 26 November 2021

Second draft report by 10 December 2021

Feedback on second draft report by 17 January 2022

Finalised report for publication by end January 2022

Phase two

Returns from the Equality Data Audit by 15 October 2021

Rapid review of key datasets by 17 December 2021

Meet key stakeholders, including lead analysts by 21 January 2021

Draft paper by 4 February 2021

Feedback on draft paper by 18 February 2021

Finalised paper by end February 2021

Phase three

Identifying key structural inequalities

Feedback on identified structural inequalities

Rapid evidence review on key structural inequalities

Draft report

Feedback on draft report

Finalised report

Timings of phase three actions are to be confirmed

If in-house, this will commence in January 2022

If an external commission is required – this is likely to commence from April 2022 onwards but would be budget dependent

Stakeholders and communications

The project team comprises two social researchers and a part-time PhD intern (zero point five time, six months), with input from a statistician and senior principal social researcher.

The EDIP Project Board will be asked to input into stakeholder mapping and engagement for this project. The project team has identified the following stakeholder groups:

Stakeholder one

EDIP Project Board 

Engagement approach: the Project Board will be provided with an overview of the project, timescales and risks, the Project Board will be invited to identify stakeholders who should be engaged in this project

The Project Board will receive updates on the project at the end of each phase, and feedback on outputs will be invited.

Stakeholder two

Policy officials in the Directorate for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights 

Engagement approach: policy officials in the Directorate for Equality and Human Rights will be invited to provide feedback on draft outputs

Stakeholder three

Experts in intersectionality and the application of intersectionality to policy making and analysis

Engagement approach: those will relevant expertise will be identified through the literature review on definitions and approaches to intersectional analysis in phase one, identified experts may be asked to provide feedback on the phase one draft report

Stakeholder four

Data owners and managers, including population survey managers

Engagement approach: data owners and managers will be identified through the Equality Data Audit, members of the project team will meet with identified data owners and managers following completion of the phase two review to discuss options to automate and streamline the production of intersectional data breakdowns, their views will be represented in the phase two paper

Stakeholder five

Organisations representing people with protected characteristics

Engagement approach: organisations representing people with protected characteristics will be engaged in the third phase to identify structural inequalities, identify evidence gaps and ways in which these could be filled

Stakeholder six

The general public

Engagement approach: a blog post will be published on the statistics blogs.gov.scot site to accompany the publication of the phase one report. An accessible summary slide pack will be published following completion of the three phases

Risks and mitigation

Risk one

Unclear scope

Likelihood: medium

Impact: medium

Mitigation: the project plan and details will be agreed in advance to minimise this risk as much as possible

Risk two

Work slippage

Likelihood: medium

Impact: high

Mitigation: the timetable will be routinely monitored for slippage, the project has been divided into three phases, each will distinct milestones to facilitate monitoring and minimise the risk of slippage

Risk three

Staff absence in project team

Likelihood: medium

Impact: high

Mitigation: there will be two social researchers and a part-time PhD intern in the Equality Analysis team assigned to this project to minimise the risk of staff absence, in the event most or all of the project team are absent, the timetable will be reviewed

Risk four

lack of available literature

Likelihood: low

Impact: medium

Mitigation: a preliminary literature review will be carried out to scope the available literature

Risk five

lack of available good practice examples

Likelihood: medium

Impact: high

Mitigation: phases one to three will be carried out in-house by analysts in the Equality Analysis Team, if these phases do not produce innovative ideas or identify key structural intersectional inequalities, we will consider a competitive commission to seek good practice ideas from academia or international bodies

Risk six

Poor quality outputs

Likelihood: low

Impact: high

Mitigation: feedback on key outputs has been built into the timetable to ensure a robust approach to quality assurance

Risk seven

lack of available budget for external commission

Likelihood: medium

Impact: medium

Mitigation: a need for external commission will be identified ahead of the 2022/23 financial year and budget options discussed with policy colleagues in the Mainstreaming and Strategy Unit, if budget is not available to support an external commission, this work will be undertaken in-house

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