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On the Arbitrariness and Robustness of Multi-Dimensional Poverty Rankings

  • Qizilbash, Mozaffar

It is often argued that multi-dimensional measures of well-being and poverty -- such as those based on the capability approach and related views -- are ad hoc. Rankings based on them are not, for this reason, robust to changes in the selection of weights used. In this paper, it is argued that the extent of potential arbitrariness and the range of issues relating to robustness have been underestimated in this context. Several issues relating to both the identification of the poor and the use of dimension- specific data are distinguished. For illustrative purposes, these distinct issues are discussed in the context of the inter-provincial ranking of poverty in South Africa in 1995-1996. It turns out that this ranking is fairly robust, and that an important policy-relevant result involving a comparison between KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State in 'income'/'expenditure' and 'human' poverty rankings is reinforced rather than undermined by checking for robustness. Even when the rankings are not robust, the discussion suggests that they may inform policy debates.

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Paper provided by World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER) in its series Working Paper Series with number UNU-WIDER Research Paper RP2004/37.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:rp2004-37
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  1. Bourguignon, F. & Chakravarty, S.R., 1998. "The Measurement of Multidimensional Poverty," DELTA Working Papers 98-12, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  2. Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2002. "A note on the measurement of poverty and vulnerability in the South African context," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(6), pages 757-772.
  3. Sudhir Anand & Amartya Sen, 2000. "The Income Component of the Human Development Index," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(1), pages 83-106.
  4. Atkinson, A B, 1987. "On the Measurement of Poverty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(4), pages 749-64, July.
  5. Qizilbash, Mozaffar, 1997. "Pluralism and well-being indices," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(12), pages 2009-2026, December.
  6. A. B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon, 1982. "The Comparison of Multi-Dimensioned Distributions of Economic Status," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(2), pages 183-201.
  7. Stephan Klasen, 1997. "Poverty, Inequality and Deprivation in South Africa: An Analysis of the 1993 SALDRU Survey," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 51-94, July.
  8. A. Atkinson, 2003. "Multidimensional Deprivation: Contrasting Social Welfare and Counting Approaches," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 51-65, April.
  9. Murray Leibbrandt & Ingrid Woolard, 1999. "A comparison of poverty in South Africa's nine provinces," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 37-54.
  10. Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2001. "Vague language and precise measurement: the case of poverty," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(1), pages 41-58.
  11. Maasoumi, Esfandiar, 1986. "The Measurement and Decomposition of Multi-dimensional Inequality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(4), pages 991-97, July.
  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.
  13. François Bourguignon & Satya R. Chakravarty, 2002. "Multi-dimensional poverty orderings," DELTA Working Papers 2002-22, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  14. Indranil Dutta & Prasanta K. Pattanaik & Yongsheng Xu, 2003. "On Measuring Deprivation and the Standard of Living in a Multidimensional Framework on the Basis of Aggregate Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 70(278), pages 197-221, 05.
  15. Ravallion, Martin, 1994. "Poverty rankings using noisy data on living standards," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 45(4), pages 481-485, August.
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