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The capability dilemma in operational poverty assessment

  • Julia Johannsen
  • Manfred Zeller
  • Stephan Klasen

This paper compares the standard economic welfare approach to poverty measurement to the empirical approaches proposed in the capability literature under the special focus of their suitability for operational poverty assessment, i.e. targeting and outreach evaluation. We question whether the measurement of per capita daily expenditures compared with a monetary poverty line justifiably remains the most widely used approach regarding poverty assessment. Its underlying value judgments and unsatisfactory assumptions differ considerably from those of the capability concept of poverty but the two approaches can be linked and critically compared with respect to the role of income, the conceptualisation of absolute poverty and the development of operational tools. We argue that despite the progress made in operationalizing the capability approach, there remain serious challenges when focussing on targeting and outreach evaluation and propose three alternative solutions for dealing with this capability dilemma in practice.

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File URL: http://www2.vwl.wiso.uni-goettingen.de/ibero/working_paper_neu/DB159.pdf
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Paper provided by Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research in its series Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers with number 159.

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Length: 28
Date of creation: 19 Mar 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:got:iaidps:159
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  1. Paul Anand & Graham Hunter & Ron Smith, 2004. "Capabilities and Wellbeing: Evidence Based on the Sen-Nussbaum Approach to Welfare," Open Discussion Papers in Economics 47, The Open University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economics.
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  3. Tarp, Finn & Simler, Kenneth & Matusse, Cristina & Heltberg, Rasmus & Dava, Gabriel, 2002. "The robustness of poverty profiles reconsidered," FCND discussion papers 124, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
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  9. François Bourguignon & Satya Chakravarty, 2003. "The Measurement of Multidimensional Poverty," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 25-49, April.
  10. Alkire, Sabina, 2005. "Valuing Freedoms: Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199283316, March.
  11. Miguel Székely & Nora Lustig & Martin Cumpa & José Antonio Mejía-Guerra, 2000. "Do We Know How Much Poverty There Is?," Research Department Publications 4239, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  12. Klasen, Stephan, 2000. "Measuring Poverty and Deprivation in South Africa," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 46(1), pages 33-58, March.
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  14. Ingrid Robeyns, 2003. "Sen'S Capability Approach And Gender Inequality: Selecting Relevant Capabilities," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2-3), pages 61-92.
  15. repec:ner:tilbur:urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-361898 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Anand, Paul & van Hees, Martin, 2006. "Capabilities and achievements: An empirical study," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 268-284, April.
  17. Atkinson, A B, 1987. "On the Measurement of Poverty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(4), pages 749-64, July.
  18. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2003. "On the utility consistency of poverty lines," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3157, The World Bank.
  19. Hicks, Norman L., 1979. "Growth vs basic needs: Is there a trade-off?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 7(11-12), pages 985-994.
  20. Ravallion, M., 1992. "Poverty Comparisons - A Guide to Concepts and Methods," Papers 88, World Bank - Living Standards Measurement.
  21. Mozaffar Qizilbash & David Clark, 2005. "The Capability Approach and Fuzzy Poverty Measures: An Application to the South African Context," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 74(1), pages 103-139, October.
  22. Udaya Wagle, 2005. "Multidimensional Poverty Measurement with Economic Well-being, Capability, and Social Inclusion: A Case from Kathmandu, Nepal," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(3), pages 301-328.
  23. Sen, Amartya, 1995. "Rationality and Social Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 1-24, March.
  24. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
  25. Alkire, Sabina, 2002. "Dimensions of Human Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 181-205, February.
  26. Hyun H. Son & Nanak Kakwani, 2006. "Measuring the Impact of Price Changes on Poverty," Working Papers 33, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth.
  27. Glewwe, Paul & van der Gaag, Jacques, 1990. "Identifying the poor in developing countries: Do different definitions matter?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 803-814, June.
  28. Ravallion, M., 1998. "Poverty Lines in Theory and Practice," Papers 133, World Bank - Living Standards Measurement.
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