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Subjective Well-being Poverty versus Income Poverty and Capabilities Poverty?

Author

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  • Geeta Kingdon
  • John Knight

    () (Department of Economics, University of Oxford)

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 subjective 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 subjective 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 subjective well-being poverty.

Suggested Citation

  • Geeta Kingdon & John Knight, 2005. "Subjective Well-being Poverty versus Income Poverty and Capabilities Poverty?," Working Papers 05096, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
  • Handle: RePEc:ctw:wpaper:05096
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
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    3. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2002. "Self-rated economic welfare in Russia," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(8), pages 1453-1473, September.
    4. 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.
    5. Townsend, Robert M, 1994. "Risk and Insurance in Village India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 539-591, May.
    6. Clark, Andrew E., 1999. "Are wages habit-forming? evidence from micro data," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 179-200, June.
    7. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-484, July.
    8. Grimard, Franque, 1997. "Household consumption smoothing through ethnic ties: evidence from Cote d'Ivoire," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 391-422, August.
    9. Menno Pradhan & Martin Ravallion, 2000. "Measuring Poverty Using Qualitative Perceptions Of Consumption Adequacy," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(3), pages 462-471, August.
    10. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Reetz, Sunny W.H. & Schwarze, Stefan & Brümmer, Bernhard, 2012. "Poverty and Tropical Deforestation by Smallholders in Forest Margin Areas: Evidence from Central Sulawesi, Indonesia," 2012 Conference, August 18-24, 2012, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil 126326, International Association of Agricultural Economists.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    South Africa: poverty; well-being; measures of income; consumption;

    JEL classification:

    • A1 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics

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