The Capability Approach and Well-Being Measurement for Public Policy

OPHI Working Papers

This chapter presents Sen’s capability approach as a framework for well-being measurement with powerful and ongoing relevance to current work on measuring well-being in order to guide public policy. It discusses how preferences and values inform the relative weights across capabilities, then draws readers’ attention to measurement properties of multidimensional measures that have proven to be policy-relevant in poverty reduction. It presents a dual-cutoff counting methodology that satisfies these principles and outlines the assumptions that must be fulfilled in order to interpret ensuing indices as measuring capability poverty. It then discusses Bhutan’s innovative extension of this methodology in the Gross National Happiness Index and reflects upon whether it might be suited to other contexts. It closes with some remarks on relevant material in other Handbook chapters. 

Citation: Alkire, S. (2015). 'Capability approach and well-being measurement for public policy', OPHI Working Papers 94, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

Also published in M.D. Adler and M. Fleurbaey (eds.), 2016, The Oxford Handbook of Well-Being and Public Policy, pp. ch. 21.

Capability approach, Amartya Sen, preferences, ordinal data, relative weights, AF dual-cutoff counting methodology, multidimensional poverty, Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index
South Asia

Sabina Alkire
Series Name
OPHI Working Papers
Publication date
JEL Codes
D60, I30, I32, A13
Publication Number
WP 94