Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD) LSE RSS Contact Us YouTube Twitter


Inequality and the Capability Approach
Tania Burchardt and Rod Hick
January 2017
Paper No' CASE/201:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: I31; I32; D31

Tags: capability approach; inequality; distribution; advantage; measurement; poverty; income; wealth; multidimensional

Inequality has acquired a newfound prominence in academic and political debate. While scholars working with the capability approach have succeeded in influencing the nature of debate about the conceptualisation and measurement of poverty, which is increasingly understood in multidimensional terms, the recent literature on inequality focusses overwhelmingly on economic forms of inequality, and especially on inequalities in income and wealth. In this paper we outline how and why the capability approach might be employed to provide a richer understanding of inequality, and of ‘advantage’ in particular. We also discuss three issues that arise when seeking to apply the capability approach to examine inequality rather than the more traditional concern with poverty. Addressing these issues is central to unlocking the potential that the capability approach has to enrich the understanding of inequality.