The Emergence of Intersectional Disadvantage

Cailin O’Connor, Liam Kofi Bright, Justin P. Bruner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Intersectionality theory explores the peculiar disadvantages that arise as the result of occupying multiple disadvantaged demographic categories. Addressing intersectionality theory through quantitative methods has proven difficult. Concerns have been raised about the sample size one would need in order to responsibly tease out evidence for the claims of intersectionality theorists. What is more, theorists have expressed concern about our ability to formulate novel intersectional hypotheses in a non-ad-hoc manner. We argue that simulation methods can help address these, and other, methodological problems, because they can generate novel hypotheses about causal dependencies in a relatively cheap way, and can thus guide future empirical work. We illustrate this point using models which show that intersectional oppression can arise under conditions where social groups are disadvantaged in the emergence of bargaining norms. As we show, intersectional disadvantage can arise even when actors from all social categories are completely identical in terms of preferences and abilities. And when actors behave in ways that reflect stronger intersectional identities, the potential for disadvantage increases. As we note, this exploration illustrates the usefulness of idealized models to real-world inquiry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-41
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Epistemology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Intersectionality theory
  • game theory
  • social norms
  • social philosophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


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