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Rebuilding Babel: finding common development solutions using cross-contextual comparisons of multidimensional well-being


  • James R. Hull

    (Brown University)

  • Gilvan Guedes

    (Vale do Rio Doce University)


We build on the theoretical tradition of livelihood strategies and capital portfolios to empirically assess wellbeing among rural households, but with an eye to comparison across contexts. First, we estimate a multidimensional measure of poverty based on fuzzy logic, for two rural frontiers: Nang Rong, Thailand and Altamira, Brazil. To enable cross-contextual comparison, we calculate a second estimate using a subset of shared measures. We find that the pattern of response over the range of many key variables – for example education, income, and demographic dependency ratio – is robust to model specification, suggesting that comparative generalizations, useful in formulating cost-effective policy interventions across contexts, could be satisfactorily identified in many instances. More generally, our approach provides researchers and policymakers with a framework for understanding the interaction of context and the subjective construction of wellbeing that is useful for distinguishing stable corollaries of poverty from those that are volatile across contexts.

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  • James R. Hull & Gilvan Guedes, 2011. "Rebuilding Babel: finding common development solutions using cross-contextual comparisons of multidimensional well-being," Textos para Discussão Cedeplar-UFMG td452, Cedeplar, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdp:texdis:td452

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bibi, Sami, 2005. "Measuring Poverty in a Multidimensional Perspective: a Review of Literature," Working Papers PMMA 2005-07, PEP-PMMA.
    2. Foster, James & Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1984. "A Class of Decomposable Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 761-766, May.
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    More about this item


    Multidimensional poverty; Amazonia; Thailand; Cross-site comparison; Grade of Membership.;

    JEL classification:

    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • P47 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Performance and Prospects
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets


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