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Capabilities: the Concept and its Operationalisation

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  • Ruhi Saith

Abstract

Amartya Sen introduced the Capability approach in 1979 as a more appropriate theory of justice than existing theories in moral philosophy. The main features of the Capabilities approach and its operationalisation in the context of poverty analysis are discussed in this paper. The three broad approaches to operationalisation i.e. evaluation in the functionings space, in the functionings space combined with the income space, or the income space supplemented by functionings information, are outlined. The paper restricts itself to the functionings space and therefore concentrates on the first of these. Issues pertaining to the assessment of capabilities as well as assessment restricted to the chosen functioning vector, selection of capabilities/functionings to be assessed, and possible procedures that may be used for inter-personal comparisons are discussed. Concentrating on operationalisation in developing countries, lists of 'basic' capabilities developed by different researchers, using differing methodologies are compared. The comparison indicates that capabilities related to health, nutrition and education consistently appear in all the lists, despite the different criteria for inclusion, reflecting their importance for any capabilities based investigation of poverty.

Suggested Citation

  • Ruhi Saith, "undated". "Capabilities: the Concept and its Operationalisation," QEH Working Papers qehwps66, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:qeh:qehwps:qehwps66
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    File URL: http://www3.qeh.ox.ac.uk/RePEc/qeh/qehwps/qehwps66.pdf
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    1. Sen, Amartya, 1988. "The concept of development," Handbook of Development Economics,in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 9-26 Elsevier.
    2. Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi, 1997. "Poverty and its many dimensions: The role of income as an indicator," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(3), pages 345-360.
    3. Erik SCHOKKAERT & Luc VAN OOTEGEM, 1990. "Sen's Concept of the Living Standard applied to the Belgian Unemployed," Discussion Papers (REL - Recherches Economiques de Louvain) 1990039, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    4. Desai, Meghnad & Shah, Anup, 1988. "An Econometric Approach to the Measurement of Poverty," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 40(3), pages 505-522, September.
    5. Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi, "undated". "The Monetary Approach to Poverty: A Survey of Concepts and Methods," QEH Working Papers qehwps58, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
    6. Ram, Rati, 1982. "Composite indices of physical quality of life, basic needs fulfilment, and income : A principal component representation," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 227-247, October.
    7. Hicks, Norman L., 1982. "Sector priorities in meeting basic needs: some statistical evidence," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 10(6), pages 489-499, June.
    8. Jenkins, Stephen P & Lambert, Peter J, 1993. "Ranking Income Distributions When Needs Differ," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 39(4), pages 337-356, December.
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