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Core Poverty, Vagueness and Adaptation: A New Methodology and Some Results for South Africa


  • David A Clark
  • Mozaffar Qizilbash


Amartya Sen has argued that poverty is a vague concept. This paper develops a methodology for applying a framework which uses a 'supervaluationist' account of vagueness in the context of poverty. Within this framework people or households are termed 'core poor' if there is no ambiguity about whether or not they are poor. The framework is applied using data from a survey on the 'Essentials of Life' conducted in three locations in South Africa in 2001. The methodology relates the data to the framework using an insight of Max Black's. While the application of the methodology is, in its very nature, somewhat arbitrary, we illustrate how it can lead to an estimate of core poverty which differs from standard measures of the 'ultra-poor' and 'most deprived'. Finally, the possibility that respondents may have adapted to their living conditions is investigated. A first look at the data does not provide conclusive evidence of such adaptation.

Suggested Citation

  • David A Clark & Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2008. "Core Poverty, Vagueness and Adaptation: A New Methodology and Some Results for South Africa," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(4), pages 519-544, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:44:y:2008:i:4:p:519-544
    DOI: 10.1080/00220380801980855

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. #HEJC for 17/10/2013
      by paulmitchell1 in The Academic Health Economists' Blog on 2013-10-10 10:30:39


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Vincenzo Mauro & Mario Biggeri & Filomena Maggino, 2018. "Measuring and Monitoring Poverty and Well-Being: A New Approach for the Synthesis of Multidimensionality," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 135(1), pages 75-89, January.
    2. Esposito, Lucio & Kebede, Bereket & Maddox, Bryan, 2011. "Literacy Practices and Schooling: A Case Study from Mozambique," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(10), pages 1796-1807.
    3. Ambra Poggi, 2012. "Public jobs and capabilities: the case of the Italian waste sector," LABORatorio R. Revelli Working Papers Series 127, LABORatorio R. Revelli, Centre for Employment Studies.
    4. Ronelle Burger & Servaas Berg & Sarel Walt & Derek Yu, 2017. "The Long Walk: Considering the Enduring Spatial and Racial Dimensions of Deprivation Two Decades After the Fall of Apartheid," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(3), pages 1101-1123, February.
    5. Mitchell, Paul Mark & Roberts, Tracy E. & Barton, Pelham M. & Coast, Joanna, 2015. "Assessing sufficient capability: A new approach to economic evaluation," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 71-79.
    6. David A. Clark, 2007. "Adaptation, Poverty and Well-Being: Some Issues and Observations with Special Reference to the Capability Approach and Development Studies," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-081, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    7. Sung-Geun Kim, 2016. "What Have We Called as “Poverty”? A Multidimensional and Longitudinal Perspective," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 129(1), pages 229-276, October.
    8. Joe Devine & Timothy Hinks & Arif Naveed, 2019. "Happiness in Bangladesh: The Role of Religion and Connectedness," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 351-371, February.
    9. Biggeri, Mario & Clark, David A. & Ferrannini, Andrea & Mauro, Vincenzo, 2019. "Tracking the SDGs in an ‘integrated’ manner: A proposal for a new index to capture synergies and trade-offs between and within goals," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 628-647.
    10. David Alexander Clark, 2011. "Adaptation and development: issues, evidence and policy relevance," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series 15911, GDI, The University of Manchester.

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