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Capabilities and Equality of Health II: Capabilities as Options


  • Hans Keiding

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)


The concept of capabilities, introduced originally by Sen, has inspired many researchers but has not found any simple formal representation which might be instrumental in the construction of a comprehensive theory of equality. In a previous paper (Keiding, 2005), we investigated whether preferences over capabilities as sets of functionings can be rationalized by maximization of a suitable utility function over the set of functionings. Such a rationalization turned out to be possible only in cases which must be considered exceptional and which do not allowfor interesting applications of the capability approach to questions of health or equality. In the present paper we extend the notion of rationalizing orderings of capabilities to a dynamical context, in the sense that the utility function is not yet revealed to the individual at the time when the capabilities are ordered. It turns out that orderings which are in accordance with such probabilistic utility assignments can be characterized by a smaller set of the axioms previously considered.

Suggested Citation

  • Hans Keiding, 2007. "Capabilities and Equality of Health II: Capabilities as Options," Discussion Papers 07-05, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:0705

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Capabilities; characteristics; equality of health;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General

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