Incomes, functionings and capabilities : the well-being of disabled people in Britain
The central objective of this thesis is to explore whether the capability approach can be operationalised, using the well-being of disabled people in Britain as a case study. The capability approach proposes a shift away from measuring utility and income poverty towards identifying functionings (the states of being and activities which individuals achieve), and capabilities (the different combinations of functionings which individuals have the opportunity to achieve). To date there have been few empirical applications and many concerns about the usefulness of the approach remain. Disabled people are an interesting case study for the capability approach because of the challenge to conventional measures of well-being issued by the social model of disability: that we should move away from measuring individual deficits towards focusing on the barriers individuals with impairments experience in attempting to lead the lives they want to lead. The capability approach has the potential, in theory, to meet this challenge. In addition to providing in-depth analysis of the position of disabled people in society, the thesis makes three contributions, one theoretical and two methodological. The theoretical development is the distinction between capability as opportunity and capability as autonomy, that is, the distinction between an approach which treats preferences as exogenous and one which takes seriously the problem of conditioned expectations. The innovative methodologies are, firstly, the extension of techniques of equivalisation of income to take account of variations in needs due to disability, and, secondly, quantifying whether a particular functioning is within an individual's capability set. The thesis concludes that relatively straightforward adjustments to conventional poverty measures improve their validity. For fuller application of the capability approach, although there is a trade-off between conceptual soundness and complexity of data requirements, informative measures of opportunity and autonomy can be derived from existing survey data.