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The capabilities approach


  • Erik Schokkaert


Capabilities and functionings are new and attractive concepts for assessing the well-being and advantage of individuals. Functionings refer to a person’s achievements, i.e. what she manages to do or to be. Capabilities refer to her real opportunities and incorporate the idea of freedom. We discuss how recent theoretical and empirical work has improved our insights in some of the key questions of the approach. How to measure opportunities and how to balance freedom and responsibility? How to formulate a list of capabilities which can be used to analyse changes over time and differences between different societies without being open to manipulation? How to construct an overall index of well-being and what should be the relative role of a priori ethical evaluations and of the opinions of the individuals themselves? What is the relationship between measures of well-being and advantage at the individual and at the aggregate level? To make further progress it is crucial, first, to estimate structural models with individual data, analysing the link between individual achievements, the socioeconomic and environmental background of the persons concerned and the specific features of the individual processes of choice and decision-making; and, second, to integrate the insights from these models in a coherent ethical framework specifying the role of individual preferences and the limits of personal responsibility.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik Schokkaert, 2007. "The capabilities approach," Working Papers Department of Economics ces0734, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ete:ceswps:ces0734

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bossert W., 1996. "Redistribution mechanisms based on individual characteristics," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 51-51, February.
    2. Schokkaert, Erik & Van de Voorde, Carine, 2004. "Risk selection and the specification of the conventional risk adjustment formula," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(6), pages 1237-1259, November.
    3. Roland Luttens & Dirk gaer, 2007. "Lorenz Dominance and Non-welfaristic Redistribution," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 28(2), pages 281-302, February.
    4. IÓigo Iturbe-Ormaetxe, 1997. "Redistribution and individual characteristics," Review of Economic Design, Springer;Society for Economic Design, vol. 3(1), pages 45-55.
    5. Fleurbaey, Marc, 2012. "Fairness, Responsibility, and Welfare," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199653591.
    6. Adam Wagstaff & Eddy van Doorslaer, 2000. "Measuring and Testing for Inequity in the Delivery of Health Care," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(4), pages 716-733.
    7. Van de ven, Wynand P.M.M. & Ellis, Randall P., 2000. "Risk adjustment in competitive health plan markets," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 755-845 Elsevier.
    8. Fleurbaey, Marc & Schokkaert, Erik, 2009. "Unfair inequalities in health and health care," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 73-90, January.
    9. repec:adr:anecst:y:2006:i:83-84:p:02 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Hugh Gravelle & Matthew Sutton & Stephen Morris & Frank Windmeijer & Alastair Leyland & Chris Dibben & Mike Muirhead, 2003. "Modelling supply and demand influences on the use of health care: implications for deriving a needs-based capitation formula," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(12), pages 985-1004.
    11. Schokkaert, Erik & Van de Voorde, Carine, 2003. "Belgium: risk adjustment and financial responsibility in a centralised system," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 5-19, July.
    12. Marc Fleurbaey & Walter Bossert, 1996. "Redistribution and compensation (*)," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 13(3), pages 343-355.
    13. Erik Schokkaert & Geert Dhaene & Carine Van De Voorde, 1998. "Risk adjustment and the trade-off between efficiency and risk selection: an application of the theory of fair compensation," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 7(5), pages 465-480.
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    17. Hugh Gravelle, 2003. "Measuring income related inequality in health: standardisation and the partial concentration index," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(10), pages 803-819.
    18. Fleurbaey Marc, 1995. "Three Solutions for the Compensation Problem," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 505-521, April.
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    capabilities; opportunities;

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