Childhood and Capability Deprivation in Italy: a multidimensional and fuzzy set approach

Potsi, Antoanneta; D' Agostino, Antonella; Giusti, Caterina; Moran-Ellis, Jo; Porciani, Linda (2014). 'Childhood and Capability Deprivation in Italy: a multidimensional and fuzzy set approach' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) has shifted the policy interest and landscape into childhood and raised concerns about children's quality of life span, the spectrum of their well-being and their behaviour and attitudes within their homes, schools and communities. Moreover, social and cultural perspectives on childhood have liberated research and policy form over reliance on normative developmental accounts (Woodhead, 2006). Children are citizens of contemporary societies and they are also key for the future of society from a dual perspective: as citizens who are relevant for the future of democracies and as constituents of the labour force of tomorrow's economy. The success of an economy and of a society cannot be separated from the lives that members of the society are able to lead (Sen, 1999). The impact of deprivation on children's life quality has two main facets: their entitlements to a good life in the here and now as young children and the impact inequalities have on the societal development and the potential for children's forthcoming adulthood. Child deprivation often links to social exclusion on the lived experiences of children both at school and in the wider community especially in periods such as the recent global economic and financial crisis that has fuelled and aggravated social inequality.

This paper analyses children's deprivation in Italy with respect to their capabilities such as play (being able to play, to enjoy recreational activities), affiliation (social interaction and participation) and bodily health (being able to have a good health, being adequately nourished, being able to have adequate shelter) by using the data of the EU-SILC 2009 study. The aforementioned capabilities are for Nussbaum (2006; 2011) basic central capabilities for human flourishing. Indeed Sen (1987) argues that it is plausible to identify someone as having a low standard of living on the ground that he or she is deprived of decent housing, or adequate food, or basic medical care. However, for Sen the stock of commodity possession is not the right place to stop. Sen stresses that the standard of living must be directly a matter of the life one leads rather than of the resources and means one has to lead a life. The concern should be on the type of life one succeeds in living with the help of commodities. Commodities are means to other ends. The focus has to be on what life we lead and what we can or cannot do, can or cannot be. The living standard is not just a matter of opulence, even though there are causal connections. In addition, Wüst and Volkert (2012) highlight the importance of income as a factor for evaluating the capabilities and chances of a child. As they argue depending on the financial situation, one cannot only fulfil a lot of desires but also participate in cultural, social or sporting events. Yet, Wüst and Volkert do not disregard the emphasis of the capability approach given on the potential that the same disposable income for two persons may, due to their individual potentials and eventually the different social situations that they will live in, lead to different capabilities. Thus, in our analysis we also consider income as a dimension determining the well-being of children, to explore to what extend different level of income correspond to different living conditions according to the capability approach.

In this empirical analysis a fuzzy methodology is used in order to preserve the richness of the data. This method gives the opportunity to grasp and analyse aspects of poverty in depth.  Indeed, the fuzzy methodology preserves the richness of the capability approach suggested by Amartya Sen, and also pointed out by Chiappero-Martinetti (1994, 2005). It allows overcoming any limitation of the unidimensional conventional approach characterized by simply depicting deprivation and well-being indicators in a dichotomous way. Thus, the introduction of fuzzy measures implies the choice of a quantitative specification of the children degree of well-being and deprivation. As a consequence, for each child we are able to evaluate its degree of well-being and deprivation in the dimensions identified with the capability approach. In particular, we will adapt in this framework the methodology introduced by Cheli and Lemmi (1995) and then updated by Lemmi et al. (2010). The above mentioned methodology will be applied at a disaggregated geographical level, in order to investigate macro-regional disparities, an useful instrument for planning policies directed at improving children living conditions. We focus on the NUTS-1 level according to the Nomenclature of territorial units for statistics, which can be useful to highlight different well-being and living conditions inside the same country. Thus, the results of this study are of significance for Italian policy makers as well as for researchers in this field.

scroll to top