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Well-being poverty versus income poverty and capabilities poverty?

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  • Geeta G. Kingdon
  • John Knight

Abstract

The conventional approach of economists to the measurement of poverty in poor countries is to use measures of income or consumption. This has been challenged by those who favour broader criteria for poverty and its avoidance. These include the fulfilment of "basic needs", the .capabilities. to be and to do things of intrinsic worth, and safety from insecurity and vulnerability. This paper asks: to what extent are these different concepts measurable, to what extent are they competing and to what extent complementary, and is it possible for them to be accommodated within an encompassing framework? There are two remarkable gaps in the rapidly growing literature on subjective well-being. First, reflecting the availability of data, there is little research on poor countries. Second, within any country, there is little research on the relationship between well-being and the notion of poverty. This paper attempts to fill these gaps. Any attempt to define poverty involves a value judgement as to what constitutes a good quality of life or a bad one. We argue that an approach which examines the individual.s own perception of well-being is less imperfect, or more quantifiable, or both, as a guide to forming that value judgement than are the other potential approaches. We develop a methodology for using subjective well-being as the criterion for poverty, and illustrate its use by reference to a South African data set containing much socio-economic information on the individual, the household and the community, as well as information on reported well-being. We conclude that it is possible to view subjective well-being as an encompassing concept, which permits us to quantify the relevance and importance of the other approaches and of their component variables. The estimated well-being functions for South Africa contain some variables corresponding to the income approach, some to the basic needs (or physical functioning) approach, some to the relative (or social functioning) approach, and some to the security approach. Thus, our methodology effectively provides weights of the relative importance of these various components of well-being poverty.

Suggested Citation

  • Geeta G. Kingdon & John Knight, 2003. "Well-being poverty versus income poverty and capabilities poverty?," CSAE Working Paper Series 2003-16, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2003-16
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kingdon, Geeta Gandhi & Knight, John, 2007. "Community, comparisons and subjective well-being in a divided society," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 69-90, September.
    2. Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh & John F. Helliwell, 2008. "Empathy and Emulation: Life Satisfaction and the Urban Geography of Comparison Groups," NBER Working Papers 14593, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Mussa, Richard, 2009. "Impact of fertility on objective and subjective poverty in Malawi," MPRA Paper 16089, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2005. "Unhappiness and Crime: Evidence from South Africa," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 72(3), pages 531-547, August.
    5. KNIGHT, John & SONG, Lina & GUNATILAKA, Ramani, 2009. "Subjective well-being and its determinants in rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 635-649, December.
    6. Timothy Hinks & Carola Gruen, 2007. "What is the Structure of South African Happiness Equations? Evidence from Quality of Life Surveys," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 82(2), pages 311-336, June.
    7. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2007. "Are there Geographical Variations in the Psychological Cost of Unemployment in South Africa?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 80(3), pages 629-652, February.
    8. Francis Teal, 2006. "Consumption and welfare in Ghana in the 1990s," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(7), pages 1252-1269.
    9. Fafchamps, Marcel & Shilpi, Forhad, 2008. "Subjective welfare, isolation, and relative consumption," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 43-60, April.
    10. Eliane El Badaoui & Eric Strobl & Frank Walsh, 2008. "Is There an Informal Employment Wage Penalty? Evidence from South Africa," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 683-710.
    11. Dorrit Posel & Daniela Casale, 2011. "Relative Standing and Subjective Well-Being in South Africa: The Role of Perceptions, Expectations and Income Mobility," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 104(2), pages 195-223, November.
    12. Nicaise MISANGUMUKINI, 2016. "Les Déterminants De La Perception Subjective De La Pauvreté Parmi Les Chefs De Ménage Objectivement Non-Pauvres Au Mali," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 44, pages 103-120.
    13. Marcel Fafchamps & Forhad Shilpi, 2004. "Isolation and Subjective Welfare," Economics Series Working Papers 216, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    14. John Knight & Li Shi & Deng Quheng, 2008. "Education and the Poverty Trap in Rural China," CSAE Working Paper Series 2008-02, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    15. Jain, Varinder, 2007. "Quality of Jobs Generated by Unorganised Establishments During Globalisation: A Diagnosis with a Case of Indian Punjab," MPRA Paper 5756, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2003. "Are there Regional Variations in the Psychological Cost of Unemployment in South Africa?," Labor and Demography 0310006, EconWPA, revised 28 Oct 2003.
    17. Knight, John & Gunatilaka, Ramani, 2012. "Income, aspirations and the Hedonic Treadmill in a poor society," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 67-81.
    18. Hau Chyi & Shangyi Mao, 2012. "The Determinants of Happiness of China’s Elderly Population," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 167-185, March.
    19. Ravallion, Martin, 2012. "Poor, or just feeling poor ? on using subjective data in measuring poverty," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5968, The World Bank.
    20. Brian O’Leary, 2007. "Changes in the quality of life of Durban’s people," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 81(2), pages 357-373, April.
    21. MISANGUMUKINI Nicaise, 2013. "Les déterminants de la discordance entre pauvreté subjective et objective au Mali," LISER Working Paper Series 2013-05, LISER.

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    JEL classification:

    • O - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth
    • P - Economic Systems

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