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Subjective well-being, disability and adaptation: A case study from rural Ethiopia

  • Marcel Fafchamps
  • Bereket Kebede

In many developing countries poor infrastructure – including sanitation and health facilities – exposes the population to high risks of disability. Low standards of health and safety at work and at home, coupled with political, ethnic, and domestic violence, also contribute to raising the risk of becoming physically disabled. The effect of physical disability on people’s lives is likely to be worse than in developed economies because of the reliance on physical labour for income generation – for example, in farming. Higher levels of national income and technological capability may also enable societies to make the investments required to enable disabled individuals to be productively employed. Finally, since formal social insurance is usually lacking in developing countries, the effect of disability on welfare is expected to be higher as disabled people must rely on social networks that have limited capacity to pool risks (Fafchamps and Lund, 2003). However there are also factors that tend to lower the proportion of disabled individuals in poor societies. The first one is lower life expectancy. In developed economies, the incidence of disability typically increases with age (e.g., loss of eyesight and hearing, paralysis due to stroke). This means that, other things being equal, populations with a larger proportion of elderly people have a larger proportion of disabled individuals. Put differently, many people in poor rural economies do not live long enough to become disabled. The second reason is that disability may have such dire consequences in terms of lost income and lack of support that disabled individuals have a much shorter life expectancy than they would have in a developed economy. If this is the case, the proportion of disabled individuals in the population may be low even though the risk of disability is high. In spite of the fact that disability is an important welfare concern, socio-economic studies on the effect of disability in developing countries a

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Paper provided by University of Oxford, Department of Economics in its series Economics Series Working Papers with number WPS/2008-01.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 2008
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Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:wps/2008-01
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  1. Fafchamps, Marcel & Shilpi, Forhad, 2006. "Subjective Welfare, Isolation and Relative Consumption," CEPR Discussion Papers 6002, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
  3. Marcel Fafchamps & Susan Lund, 2000. "Risk-Sharing Networks in Rural Philippines," Economics Series Working Papers 10, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  4. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2000. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," NBER Working Papers 7487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Easterlin, Richard A., 2006. "Life cycle happiness and its sources: Intersections of psychology, economics, and demography," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 463-482, August.
  6. Robert Biswas-Diener & Ed Diener, 2001. "Making the Best of a Bad Situation: Satisfaction in the Slums of Calcutta," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 55(3), pages 329-352, September.
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