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Creating Capabilites

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Creating Capabilities: Income and Poverty

In Creating Capabilities Martha C. Nussabaum suggests that measuring poverty using one’s income can be misleading and problematic when it comes to understanding the real reason why the person is poor. Nussabaum argues that poverty “involves heterogeneous failures of opportunity, which are not always well correlated with income” (Nussabaum 143). The problem with measuring poverty through the means of just income is outdated, there are many devastating factors that can greatly altar one’s living condition besides their income. As Nussabaum suggests, income is an inaccurate means in determining one’s well-being because other factors such as education, nutrition and debt could contribute to greatly altering one’s earnings, then causes them to go into poverty.
This essay is to explain why measuring poverty through income is a problem. Nussabaum’s belief of why the measurement of poverty is determined by income is flawed and how it should not be used because, there are other factors that can greatly altar ones living conditions will be defined as: “Poverty involves heterogeneous failures of opportunity, which are not always well correlated with income; moreover, people in positions of social exclusion may have difficulty converting income into actual functioning, so income is not even a good proxy for capabilities”(Nussabaum 143-4). The research in this essay includes the article What’s the Best Way to Measure Poverty? by Matthew Philips (freakonomics.com), also the Notre Dame press release on James Sullivan’s recent poverty research (nd.edu/~jsulliv4)

Measuring poverty through income is problematic because, the income aspect does not fully generate why ones is living in poverty rather, it only shows how much one earns. Yet, it is not a clear display of why the person is in those condition because, of undiscunted factors that can greatly altar their earnings into nothing. In an article by Obadias Ndaba of Huffington Post ”[p]overty is a combination of many things, none of which is reducible to a few quantifiable dollars. It is also about human experiences, feelings, relations with others, humiliations, exclusion and of course lack of basic economic needs.” Like Nussabaum, Ndaba believed that poverty should be measured by the human experinces or living conditions rather than, by income. In addition, a new report by The Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative created a new index called Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2014 (MPI). The index focuses on many aspects like education, nutrition, electricity, safe drinking water, sanitation. These new data suggests that Nussabaum’s concern about the measurement of poverty was in the right direction.

According to Nussabaum, that measuring poverty through income is flaw because, it overlooks the other aspects of poverty, that greatly attriubute to the problem. Including “sex bias in nutrition” and “health care” (Nussabaum 144). A smilliar ideal was presented by James Sullivan of Norte Dame Economist and National Poverty Center “[u]sing income-based numbers only also overlooks the struggles. . .those who are worried about losing their jobs or facing foreclosure, or those who devote a large chunk of their paychecks to paying off medical bills. The standard of living for these people is lower than their income would suggest.” Nussabuam’s concerns with the flaws with measuring poverty through income are reinforced with real world studies. Therefore, Sullivan’s research supports Nussabuam’s agurment that income should not be the “proxy for capabilities”. These aspects of thinking should lead to formula of measuring poverty to be reevluated. Nussabuam thinking is correct that it poverty should not be measure just by income but, by including the bigger picture like the surival conditions.

The way poverty is measure in our society is outdated and ineffeivent. The problem is that, simply by measuring income. We do not have the complete picture of why a person is struggling. Like N Nussabaum believes that poverty should not be measure by only the means of income is reinforced with real world studies. Such as Sullivan’s and the Global Multidiemnsional Poverty Index all suggests that using income as a primary measurement of poverty is flaw and does not fully generate a explaination of why a person result in below the poverty line. The problem with using income to measure poverty is that the an individual’s income does not fully show what and why ones is struggling. The data from the earnings of an individual does not represents the factors that causes a poor living such as the lack of education, nutritions, and the debts the individual owes. These factors can all contribute to ones poor living conditions that is not visible through income data.

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