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A dynamic operationalization of Sen's capability approach


  • Marco Grasso

    (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca)


The limits of the utilitarian approach have led to a search for different notions of welfare. The income approach to well-being, in fact, doesn’t account for the diversity in human beings and for the heterogeneities of contingent circumstances. Amartya Sen, looking for broader notions of well-being, has developed an approach focused on the freedom of individuals to pursue their own project of life: the capability approach. The main purpose of the paper is to explore the possibility of using system dynamics to operationalize Sen’s framework. First of all we address the methodological issues that have to be considered in order to operationalize the capability approach in a dynamic framework. Then we investigate the architecture of the three- functionings model we devised to represent human well-being, as intended in the capability approach. Furthermore, we analyze in depth the structure of a particular functioning, and consider some simulations for the selected functioning and for the whole model over time. Finally, the concluding remarks suggest some indications about the use of system dynamics in order to operationalize the capability approach, and consider the main findings derived from the simulations carried out.

Suggested Citation

  • Marco Grasso, 2002. "A dynamic operationalization of Sen's capability approach," HEW 0211001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwphe:0211001
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sen, Amartya, 1997. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292975.
    2. Amartya Sen, 1999. "The Possibility of Social Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 349-378, June.
    3. Sen, Amartya, 1995. "Rationality and Social Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 1-24, March.
    4. Amartya Sen, 1997. "Inequality, Unemployment and Contemporary Europe," STICERD - Development Economics Papers - From 2008 this series has been superseded by Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers 07, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    5. Sen, Amartya, 1991. "Welfare, preference and freedom," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1-2), pages 15-29, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jürgen Volkert & Friedrich Schneider, 2011. "The Application of the Capability Approach to High-Income OECD Countries: A Preliminary Survey," CESifo Working Paper Series 3364, CESifo.
    2. Leßmann, Ortrud, 2011. "Empirische Studien zum Capability Ansatz auf der Grundlage von Befragungen: Ein Überblick," UFZ Discussion Papers 4/2011, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    3. Ortrud Lessmann, 2009. "Conditions of Life, Functionings and Capability: Similarities, Differences and Complementary Features," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(2), pages 279-298.

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    More about this item


    welfare measurement;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being


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