Babic, Bernhard, Mario Biggeri, Clemens Sedmak, and Caroline Hart (2012). "Child Poverty from a Capability Perspective" Paper presented at the 9th annual conference of the HDCA, 5-7 September 2012, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Most efforts to measure child poverty rely on data on household incomes. Children living in income-poor households are counted as poor. While the focus on income in poverty measures is disputed in general, it is particularly inadequate for children: The usual way to account for the special needs of families in income poverty measurement is the use of equivalence scales. However, these typically assign high economies of scale to large households and thus calculate high equivalence incomes for families resulting in an underestimation of child poverty rates. Further, the indirect approach to measurement is praised for respecting freedom of choice and not prescribing a way of life to poor households. This seems cynical even in the case of adults, but for children who do not have an income at their command the argument is ridiculous. The Capability Approach (CA) can be seen as a basis for measuring poverty directly by looking at the various conditions of life and determining poverty-lines for each dimension while at the same time respecting freedom of choice by referring to the capabilities of people. However, measuring poverty directly on the basis of the CA demands first of all to select relevant dimensions. This is always a difficult task, but in the case of child poverty the question arises whether the dimensions are the same for children and adults. Further, there is no easy way to measure capabilities of people – what they can be and do. Finally, the cogency of the concept of capability has been disputed in the case of children. Sen and Nussbaum suggest concentrating on achieved functionings (beings and doings) rather than on capabilities in the case of children. But then: How will they grow up to responsible agents?