The Material and Political Bases of Lived Poverty in Africa: Insights from the Afrobarometer

  • Robert Mattes
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 33)


The Afrobarometer has developed an experiential measure of lived poverty (how frequently people go without basic ecessities during the course of a year) that measures a portion of the central core of the concept of poverty not captured by existing objective or subjective measures. Empirically, the measure has strong individual level construct validity and reliability within any cross national round of surveys. Yet it also displays inconsistent levels of external validity as a measure of aggregate level poverty when compared to other objective, material measures of poverty or well being. Surprisingly, however, we find that lived poverty is very strongly related to country level measures of political freedom. This finding simultaneously supports Sen’s (1999) arguments about development as freedom, corroborates Halperin et al’s (2005) arguments about the “democracy advantage” in development, and increases our confidence that we are indeed measuring the experiential core of poverty.


Cash Income Political Freedom National Wealth Southern African Country Political Basis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ake, Claude. 1996. Democracy and Development in Africa. Washington, DC: Brookings institution.Google Scholar
  2. Bratton, Michael and Robert Mattes. 2003. “Support for Economic Reform? Popular Attitudes in Southern Africa.” World Development 32/2 (February): 303–324.Google Scholar
  3. Bratton, Michael, Robert Mattes and E. Gyimah-Boadi. 2005. Public Opinion, Democracy and Market Reform in Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bratton, Michael. 2006. Poor People and Democratic Citizenship in Africa, Afrobarometer Working Paper, no. 56. Afrobarometer: East Lansing, MI/Accra, Cape Town. ( Scholar
  5. Bollen, Kenneth and Robert Jackman. 1989. “Democracy, Stability and Dichotomies.” American Sociological Review 54: 438–457.Google Scholar
  6. Halperin, Morton, Joseph Siegle and Michael Weinstein. 2005. The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Huntington, Samuel. 1991. The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late 20th Century. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  8. Inglehart, Ronald and Christian Welzel. 2005. Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy: The Human Development Sequence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Johnson, R.W. and Lawrence Schlemmer. 1996. “Into the Brave New World: Post Election South Africa,” In R.W. Johnson and Lawrence Schlemmer (eds), Launching Democracy in South Africa: The First Open Election, April 1994. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 353–375.Google Scholar
  10. Johnson, Jacob. 2006. How Does Democracy Reduce Poverty? A Study of Dispersed Power Within Ten African Countries? Mini-Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Masters in Social Science in Democratic Governance. Cape Town: University of Cape Town.Google Scholar
  11. Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1959. “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Develoment and Political Legitimacy.” American Political Science Review 53/1: 69–105.Google Scholar
  12. Mattes, Robert, Michael Bratton and Yul Derek Davids. 2002. Poverty, Survival and Democracy in Southern Africa, Afrobarometer Working Paper, no. 22. East Lansing/Accra/Cape Town: Afrobarometer ( Scholar
  13. Mattes, Robert and Michael Bratton. 2007. “Learning About Democracy in Africa: Awareness, Performance and Experience.” American Journal of Political Science 51/1 (January): 192–217.Google Scholar
  14. Mattes, Robert. 2008. “South Africans’ Participation in Local Politics and Government.” Transformation 47/1: forthcoming.Google Scholar
  15. Mpani, Glen. 2007. To Protest or Not To Protest? Zimbabweans’ Willingness to Use Protest as a Form of Political Participation. Mini-Dissertation, Masters of Social Science in Democratic Governance. Cape Town: University of Cape Town.Google Scholar
  16. Przeworki, Adam, Michael Alvarez, Jose Antonio Cheibub and Fernando Limongi. 2000. Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950–1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Rose, Richard. 1998. Getting Things Done With Social Capital: New Russia Barometer VII, Studies in Public Policy, no. 303. Glasgow: Centre for the Study of Public Policy, University of Strathclyde.Google Scholar
  18. Sen, Amartya. 1999. Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. World Bank. 2006. Africa Development Indicators, 2006. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  20. World Bank. 2007. Global Monitoring Report, 2007. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Mattes
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political Studies and Centre for Social Science ResearchUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations