Using capabilities as an alternative indicator for well-being
Direct measurement of capabilities is scarce, mainly because questions arise concerning their observability. This paper lines up with the kind of ‘primary data’ base research as it is pioneered in Anand & Van Hees (2006) and Anand et al (2009) and shows the potential of information on subjective capabilities as indicator and aggregator for well-being. We develop a questionnaire which consistently makes the distinction between functionings and capabilities on the one hand, and between the measurement and valuation of these functionings and capabilities on the other hand. We survey a population of 18 year old first year Bachelor students in applied economics and business studies. We show that capabilities can be subjectively measured. The data confirm the theoretical hypothesis that the set of capabilities is larger than the achieved functionings. Information on capabilities can be a suitable “object of valuation” for wellbeing research. To some extent, the explanatory variables behind the capabilities interpretation of well-being (eg. the role of the parents especially when they are divorced) are more relevant for policy compared to the variables influencing satisfaction with life (eg. not being single), because they are more beyond the control of the individual.
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