Measuring capability deprivation : multidimensional metrics for food security and childhood poverty
Settori Disciplinari MIUR::Scienze economiche e statistiche::POLITICA ECONOMICA
Categorie ISI-CRUI::Scienze economiche e statistiche::Economics
Scienze economiche e statistiche
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AbstractIn 2000, the United Nations committed to the Millennium Declaration (UN 2000), a global partnership to eradicate poverty and foster development, which embodied eight time-bound targets covering various aspects of human deprivations, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The first MDG focus on poverty and food insecurity, with the aim of halving their proportions, as measured by the World Bank $1 dollar-a-day headcount and by the FAO Prevalence of Undernourishment, by 2015. Despite the broad agreement on the overall objective, however, the dispute on how to measure poverty and food insecurity is, as of yet, as pervasive and impassioned than ever in both academic and policy circles. Many commentators have in fact questioned whether the two resource-based metrics used to track progress in the MDG1 can satisfactory capture the inherent complexities characterising the concepts of poverty and food insecurity. Implicitly, such a stark disagreement emphasises the fundamental role that evaluative assessments play in policy-making, from design and formulation to monitoring and evaluation. The present Thesis aims at assessing poverty and food insecurity by grounding the evaluative exercise in the overall theoretical framework of the Capability Approach (CA). Specifically, the present work is structured in three main Parts: while Part A provides the conceptual and methodological framework for rest of the dissertation, Parts B and C respectively focus on the analysis of food security and childhood poverty. In particular, Part A is structured in two main chapters, which, respectively, address the three basic steps that are required in any measure of deprivation: choice of the space of the analysis on the one hand, and identification and aggregation in multidimensional spaces on the other. Later, Part B of the dissertation focuses on the measurement of food security. Chapter 3 provides an original conceptual framework for the assessment of the following chapters, while Chapter 4 reviews available measures of food security. In turn, Chapter 5 presents an original methodology to select indicators in multidimensional assessments and in turn applies it to the choice of a suite of indicators of food security, and Chapter 6 develop a multidimensional measure of food security based on the latent variable methodology. In this framework, countries’ “capability to be food secure” can be seen as a latent construct that is manifested through a vector of measurement indicators and in turn is influenced by some economic, social, and institutional factors. Finally, Part C of the dissertation is concerned with the measurement of multidimensional childhood poverty and the modelling of its medium-term effects. By grounding the analysis in the CA, the Chapter attempts for the first time to bridge the gap between the literatures on the measurement of children’s multidimensional poverty and the one on Early Child Development (ECD), which scrutinises the effects of deprivations experienced in utero and in the first three years on later achievements. By using data from Young Lives, an innovative longitudinal study on childhood poverty in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam, the Chapter empirically addresses the critical question of whether the experience of multiple deprivations is dynamically associated to worse cognitive attainments at different development stages (i.e. the preschool and primary school years). In doing so, it takes a step beyond the measurement of multidimensional poverty by scrutinising its potential effects on children’s cognitive development in various domains at age 5 and 8. Also, it asks whether the interaction across multiple dimensions of deprivations is dynamically complementary in leading to worst cognitive attainments. Despite the many difficulties that any operationalisation of the approach entail, the Thesis shows that there are theoretical, methodological and empirical advantages when the evaluative exercise is framed in the CA. On a theoretical basis, the conceptualisation of poverty and food insecurity as deprivations of critical capabilities sheds new light on their meaning and on the role they assume in the field of international development. Now, poverty and food insecurity are the worst forms of human unfreedoms conceivable. If, as in the CA, the ultimate end of development relates to the removal of the substantive unfreedoms that constrain the flourishing of human beings, the reduction of poverty and food insecurity is definitely a key priority in the development agenda, as also pointed out by the MDG framework. In the CA, capabilities are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. The empirical analysis of Chapters 6 and 7 shows such interconnectedness very well. In the case of the former, the empirical results show that countries’ food security is strongly and significantly associated to their levels in three critical capabilities: health, female education and income poverty. By the same token, the estimates included in Chapter 7 not only show that early childhood poverty matters in children’s later cognitive development, but also that other capabilities related to the children themselves, their care-givers and households reinforce the effect of early deprivation and amplify it over children’s life-course. This evidence underlines that a truly multidimensional approach to the analysis of childhood poverty and its dynamic repercussions is needed. This conclusion is also reinforced at the light that the empirical analyses show that a multidimensional approach to measurement is able to seize more effectively the complex nature of food insecurity and childhood poverty than single indicators. Finally, the empirical results show that country-specific institutional, social and environmental characteristics are fundamental factors in the determination of well-being outcomes. Sen refers to these elements as ‘instrumental freedoms’ (Sen 1999), and they represent the “enabling environment” that allows for the determination of the capabilities. This Thesis provides evidence-based research to critically inform the post-MDG agenda, as the goal is not to measure poverty and food insecurity – but to reduce them.