Coping with disability in an urbanizing world: addressing multidimensional poverty using a mixed-method approach

VARGAS, SILVANA (2018). 'Coping with Disability in an urbanizing world: Addressing multidimensional poverty using a mixed-method approach' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


The capability approach deals with the expansion of freedom to achieve individual and collective wellbeing, as well as to how it relates to public values such as development and social justice (Robeyns, 2017). However, rapid and unplanned urbanization processes might severely jeopardize this purpose and the satisfactory attainment of Sustainable Development Goals. In Latin America, chaotic urbanization dynamics are directly related to the high levels of inequality that characterize the region as the most unequal in the world (CEPAL, 2017). Although Peru ranks below the regional Gini index average (0.445 and 0.469, respectively), the country faces a paradox related to social inclusion policies. On the one hand, a set of policies aimed at expanding the opportunities of Peruvians are in place and, on the other, little effectiveness is shown in the improvement of central dimensions of human wellbeing and the reduction of inequality related to them (Deneulin & Clausen, 2018).

In this context, population groups do not experience the incidence and/or intensity of deprivation in same ways. One of the most vulnerable groups is the population with disability that is systematically exposed to multiple challenges resulting from their condition, social stigma and environmental limitations. In Peru, this group reaches 1.5 million people that accounts for 5.2% of total population (INEI, 2014). This panel focuses on the configuration of multidimensional poverty in this group. The panel discusses, based on three presentations, the research findings of a mixed-method study that was carried out in 2017 by an interdisciplinary team of the Institute for Human Development of Latin America (IDHAL, for its acronym in Spanish) hosted at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.

The first paper Qualitative assessment of the dimensions of vulnerability among the population with disability in three regions in Peru byVargas and Azorza departs from a multidimensional poverty framework and aims at understanding how do this population define vulnerability and wellbeing, as well as its main dimensions. The paper emphasizes, following Alkire (2007), the method of selecting dimensions through a process of ongoing deliberative participation. Thus, through the use of key informant interviews and focus groups discussions, dimensions are identified, conceptualized and prioritized. Main results suggest that, overall, several dimensions are recurrent – accessibility, education, employment and health – when discussing vulnerability. Moreover, findings indicate the relevance of the missing dimensions of human development – empowerment, social connectedness, and psychological wellbeing – in understanding the nature of the multiple deprivation this population faces.

In addition, Quantitative analysis of multidimensional poverty among people with mobility disabilities in Peru by Clausen empirically assesses multidimensional poverty following the Alkire-Foster counting methodology (Alkire et al., 2015) using data from the first National Survey on Disability conducted in Peru in 2012. Based on the five methods suggested by Alkire (2007), the dimensions of deprivation and their associated indicators were selected. Moreover, deprivation cut-offs and the headcount ratio was estimated for each of them. Based on deprivation profiles, the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) was calculated. Results indicated that, among the indicators of deprivation with highest values, were receiving timely health treatment and access to health insurance. Furthermore, higher MPI scores are observable among women, children and rural areas.

Finally, the paper Living with disabilities: care and economic strategies in poor urban households in Peru by Correa and Méndez aims at identifying the main strategies followed by individuals with disability and their families to face adversity. Methodologically, a qualitative study with ethnographic perspective was conducted based on participant observation and interviews. A total of 23 household-based case studies were carried out. In terms of the economic strategies, findings suggest that these households basically rely on informal and seasonal employment (e.g., street and food vending, craft-making). As per care strategies, the role of female household members reveals to be strategic in different ways.

At present, the discussion on human development in Latin America has particularly focused on the study of poverty and human vulnerabilities. This panel seeks to provide insight to the discussion by incorporating a traditionally-excluded group in the research agenda: the population with disability. Besides, the complementarity of research methods and techniques offers a unique contribution to this end. In sum, this discussion will provide elements for the design of a sound policy agenda on the subject matter.

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