Social Indicators Research

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 103–139 | Cite as

The Capability Approach and Fuzzy Poverty Measures: An Application to the South African Context

  • Mozaffar QizilbashEmail author
  • David A. Clark


One way of making the capability approach (CA) operational uses fuzzy poverty measures. In this paper, we present a new approach to applying these measures in the South African context using responses to a questionnaire on ‘The Essentials of Life’ in conjunction with a methodology for dealing with the vagueness of poverty. Our results suggest very low cut-offs for people or households to classify as definitely poor for some social indicators. These cut-offs are far lower than those Klasen used in his application of the CA. The attempt to apply the CA using Cheli and Lemmi’s ‘totally fuzzy and relative’ poverty measure in conjunction with our approach to specifying cut-offs can lead to incoherence. This measure can, nonetheless, be useful when social indicators have a ‘relativist component’. While the Cerioli and Zani measure does not lead to such incoherence, it also has a serious weakness.

Key words

capability fuzzy sets poverty South Africa well-being 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EconomicsUniversity of East AngliaNorwich
  2. 2.Global Poverty Research Group (GPRG) and Institute for Development Policy Management (IDPM)University of ManchesterManchesterUK

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