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Well-being poverty versus income poverty and capabilities poverty?

  • Geeta Kingdon

    (Centre for the Study of African Economies)

  • John Knight

    (Centre for the Study Of African Economies)

The conventional approach of economists to the measurement of poverty in poor countries is to use measures of income or consumption. This has been challenged by those who favour broader criteria for poverty and its avoidance. These include the fulfilment of 'basic needs', the 'capabilities' to be and to do things of intrinsic worth, and safety from insecurity and vulnerability. This paper asks: to what extent are these different concepts measurable, to what extent are they competing and to what extent complementary, and is it possible for them to be accommodated within an encompassing framework? There are two remarkable gaps in the rapidly growing literature on subjective well-being. First, reflecting the availability of data, there is little research on poor countries. Second, within any country, there is little research on the relationship between well-being and the notion of poverty. This paper attempts to fill these gaps. Any attempt to define poverty involves a value judgement as to what constitutes a good quality of life or a bad one. We argue that an approach which examines the individuals own perception of well-being is less imperfect, or more quantifiable, or both, as a guide to forming that value judgement than are the other potential approaches. We develop a methodology for using subjective well-being as the criterion for poverty, and illustrate its use by reference to a South African data set containing much socio-economic information on the individual, the household and the community, as well as information on reported well- being. We conclude that it is possible to view subjective well-being as an encompassing concept, which permits us to quantify the relevance and importance of the other approaches and of their component variables. The estimated well-being functions for South Africa contain some variables corresponding to the income approach, some to the basic needs (or physical functioning)approach, some to the relative (or social functioning) approach, and some to the security approach. Thus, our methodology effectively provides weights of the relative importance of these various components of well-being poverty.

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File URL: http://128.118.178.162/eps/dev/papers/0409/0409040.pdf
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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Development and Comp Systems with number 0409040.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: 23 Sep 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpdc:0409040
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 32
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://128.118.178.162

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  12. Menno Pradhan & Martin Ravallion, 2000. "Measuring Poverty Using Qualitative Perceptions Of Consumption Adequacy," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(3), pages 462-471, August.
  13. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
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  15. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2000. "Identifying welfare effects from subjective questions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2301, The World Bank.
  16. Bernard M.S. van Praag & P. Frijters & A. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, 2002. "The Anatomy of Subjective Well-being," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 02-022/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  17. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
  18. Ruut Veenhoven, 1991. "Is happiness relative?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 1-34, February.
  19. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  20. Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi & Ruhi Saith & Frances Stewart, 2003. "Does it Matter that we do not Agree on the Definition of Poverty? A Comparison of Four Approaches," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(3), pages 243-274.
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  23. Sendhil Mullainathan & Marianne Bertrand, 2001. "Do People Mean What They Say? Implications for Subjective Survey Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 67-72, May.
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