How to measure the shortage of individuals’ capabilities, respecting the difference of individuality in their choices and evaluations

Gotoh, Reiko Yamazaki; Kita, Hideyuki; Yotsuji, Hirofumi; Kobayashi, Hideyuki (2014). 'How to measure the shortage of individuals' capabilities, respecting the difference of individuality in their choices and evaluations' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

According to Sen the capability of an individualis defined as a set of functionings (vectors of doings and beings such as nourishing, moving) which can be realized by transforming commodities at her command with her own utilization ability. It represents the substantive opportunities, from which persons can really choose 'the kind of lives they have reason to value' (Sen, 1999b, p.10). The index of capabilities points our concern towards the differences among individuals in their basic capabilities to be free from mental pain, to move safely by themselves, to enjoy music or movies and so on. It is useful in accessing to information of others and in reinterpreting principles of justice in the light of what they would be capable in actual society. In addition, information of others regarding their capabilities might change the moral behaviors or ethical judgments of individuals including their work incentives or contributions to society. It might also change the descriptions and predictions as well as the prescriptions, of economists, social-policy makers and political philosophers, who are responsible for modeling of distribution rules and institutions based on the concept of justice as fairness.

Yet, a question arises, how to measure the shortage of individuals' capabilities which can legitimately be compensated by society, respecting the difference of individuality in their choices and evaluations. More practically: how should we identify the boundary of an individual's capability in a multi-dimensional space? By definition, to identify an individual's capability, we must judge, given a functioning vector, whether or not she can choose it, though she may actually not, whether or not she could have chosen it, even if she actually did not. What are the criteria for making such judgments? The purpose of this panel is to consider this question through both a theoretical inquiry and practical research studies.

The theoretical paper, which is titled 'Equality of Capabilities Reexamined—how should we identify the boundary of an individual's capability?—', examines, first, similarities and differences between the analytical framework of traditional economic models and the capability approach. Within the framework of traditional economics, if we replace the utility space by the capability space, an individual's rationality is re-defined as choosing optimal functioning vectors from her capability (opportunity set) according to her own evaluation function. Moreover, optimal points are re-defined as functioning vectors, in which the subjective marginal substitution rate of functioning vectors equals to the objective marginal transformation rate. Therefore it seems possible to define the capability approach in a way rightly analogous to the utility approach. Yet, recalling that each functioning vector represents an objective situation of an individual's life, its absolute value can directly be an object of social concern. Second, this paper focuses on so to speak the fractal structure of capability such that: an individual's capability in the main space of functionings is produced by transforming the commodities Z at her command with her utilization ability A, while her utilization ability A is produced by transforming the commodities Z' at her command and her utilization ability A', while her utilization ability A' is produced by sub-functioning vectors chosen from her sub-functionings capability, and so on. In sum, the level of an individual's capability is constrained by the total resources that the individual can use, yet there are various intermediate factors between capability and resources. Third, this paper adopts Sen's idea of 'positional objectivity' (1993, 2002), which indicates that an observation, claim, belief or action is regarded as 'positionally objective' if it can be recognized through a bundle of parameters such as place, generation, race, gender, disabilities, patients and so on.

      This theoretical paper is followed by two research studies which apply the capability approach to the concrete problems related to public transportation and nursing services. One is titled 'An Evaluation Methodology of the Level of Rural Public Transport Service Based on Capability Approach'. Another is titled 'Patients' capability evaluated through their experiences of nursing services'. The aim of the former research is to provide a methodology of evaluating quantitatively level of local-bus services securing opportunities for daily life activities, using capability approach in welfare economics. Level of public transport services is often planned through how much the needs of mobility are satisfied. However, in some rural areas, because the level of transport services such as local-bus has been seriously low, residents might have lost the needs of mobility themselves. Therefore, this paper studies, first, under given bus-schedule, achievement rate of accessibility for any activity of an individual is calculated. Next, the number of buses under which each achievement rate is more than given minimum level is searched. In conclusion, this paper shows that bus-schedule planning should be focusing on not the needs but the activity opportunities.

The latter paper focuses on patients' experiences on nursing services as an indicator of capability which patients can evaluate by themselves. Patients' experiences of nursing services were inquired by using a questionnaire, which had been developed and tested validity and reliability for using to evaluate the quality of nursing services. Areas in patients' experiences of nursing services derived from the questionnaire were classified into nursing care for well-being achievement and that for well-being freedom. Areas related to well-being achievement were emotional support, essential care, pain management, courtesy, standardised care, room odour and disturbance. Those related to well-being freedom were education, post discharge support, function improvement support, patient decision preference, patient consent and accessibility to nurses. Each area consisted of one to five items. A patient responded how frequently a situation of nursing service had been experienced on each item, and the responses were converted as follows; always: 4, often: 3, sometimes: 2, occasionally: 1 and not: 0. Patients' satisfaction was also investigated to examine its relation to well-being achievement and well-being freedom. Inquiry was carried out in cardiac wards of general hospitals bilaterally in Japan and Sweden, in order to discuss an influence of social and institutional differences on patients' capability. 

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