For a large part of the twentieth century, it was religious and socio-economic (class) differences that constituted the most important social divisions in the Netherlands.

Secularisation, increased prosperity, and the dismantling of those “compartments” have led to these divisions becoming less important. In recent years, other social differences have often been pointed to as new lines of division, for example those between the older and younger cohorts, between immigrants and those long established here, or between those with a lower or higher level of education. The general question addressed by this project is what the main social divisions are in the Netherlands today, to what extent we should classify them as problematical, and what can if necessary be done to counteract them. To answer this question various meetings are  being organised and a number of publications will be produced.


In the spring of 2014, inspired by the WRR Lecture ‘How much (in)equality can societies sustain?’, the WRR published the report ‘How unequal is the Netherlands? An exploration of developments in and consequences of economic inequality’ (Hoe ongelijk is Nederland? Een verkenning van de ontwikkeling en gevolgen van economische ongelijkheid). The report investigates differences in income and wealth in Dutch society and what these mean for government policy. 

Separate worlds?

The Investigation ‘Separate worlds? An exploration of sociocultural oppositions in the Netherlands’ (Gescheiden werelden? Een verkenning van sociaal-culturele tegenstellingen in Nederland) was published in October 2014. It examined the question of whether there are (new) sociocultural divisions in the Netherlands, and if so, what form they take. For example, to what extent is the Netherlands  divided as regards  the values and world view of its citizens? The Investigation was produced in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP).

Financial self-reliance

On 30 June 2016, the WRR published the Investigation ‘Own (de)fault? A behavioural science perspective on problem debts’ (Eigen schuld? Een gedragswetenschappelijk perspectief op problematische schulden). Two background studies were also published, ‘Exploration of self-reliance’ (Verkenning van redzaamheid ) and ‘Sustainable improvement in healthy financial behaviour. Dream or reality?’(Duurzame verbetering van gezond financieel gedrag: Droom of werkelijkheid?).

Theoretical reflection

The Investigation ‘What’s wrong with social divisions?’ (Wat is er mis met maatschappelijke scheidslijnen?) was published in early 2017. When can a division be said to exist and what does it signify if a difference is described as a social division? These are the central questions addressed in this theoretical reflection.

Mental capacity

A WRR Report will also be published in 2017 on the importance of mental capacity for the self-reliance of citizens. The WRR expects to publish a summary report at a later date bringing together all the information and seeking to answer the question of which social divisions are problematic and warrant the attention of politicians.