Poverty as capability deprivation: multidimensionality and the role of freedom in poverty measurement

Ortrud Leßmann ,

Measuring income poverty involves two steps: Identifying the poor by setting a poverty line and aggregating poverty across individuals to determine overall poverty in society. Extending this framework to multidimensional poverty introduces aggregation across dimensions as a third step. Multidimensionality also affects the identification step since there is more than one poverty line. In my talk I explain the problems and possible solutions of the identification problem. The capability approach is a multidimensional approach and has to deal with these problems. Beyond arguing for multidimensionality of poverty the capability approach puts emphasis on freedom of choice, claiming that a person who can choose among several options is better off than someone who cannot do so. It is difficult to account for this idea in poverty measurement. However, the main purpose of poverty measurement is informing policy. Conclusions are drawn in this regard.

About the speaker
Ortrud Leßmann holds PhD in Economics. Currently, she is a researcher in the project GeNECA (fair sustainable development on the basis of the Capability Approach) and teaches at the University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg. Her research interests comprise the Capability and the conditions-of-life approach, integrated sustainability concepts, the measurement of multidimensional poverty, freedom and well-being, learning to choose and political consequences of these conceptions.

Venue: Conference Room

Date: 30 May 2013

Time: 12:30 - 13:30


UNU-MERIT