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Human Development in the Era of Globalization

Essays in Honor of Keith B. Griffin

Edited by James K. Boyce, Stephen Cullenberg, Prasanta K. Pattanaik and Robert Pollin

Honoring Keith Griffin’s more than 40 years of fundamental contributions to the discipline of economics, the papers in this volume reflect his deep commitment to advancing the well-being of the world’s poor majority and his unflinching willingness to question conventional wisdom as to how this should be done.
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Chapter 8: On Comparing Functioning Bundles and Capability Sets

Prasanta K. Pattanaik


* Prasanta K. Pattanaik Introduction The measurement of the standard of living in terms of functionings or capability sets or both constitutes one of the most important recent developments in welfare economics.1 The purpose of this chapter is to review two specific conceptual issues that arise in this context. Firstly, how do we compare functioning bundles of the same individual in different situations or the functioning bundles of different individuals? Secondly, how do we compare different capability sets (that is, different sets of available functioning bundles) for the same individual or the capability sets of different individuals? Comparisons of functioning bundles and capability sets are not the only important issues that arise in the functioningbased conception of the standard of living, and these may not even be the most important issues that arise here. However, the problem of comparison is of considerable importance in many practical applications of this approach to the measurement of the standard of living. One can compare living standards at different levels. Thus one may be interested in comparing the living standards of a given person in different situations or the living standards of different persons. Alternatively, one may be interested in comparing the living standards of different groups of individuals. In this chapter, I do not discuss the problem of comparing the living standards of groups of individuals, though that is usually the problem that confronts policy-makers. Instead, I focus on the conceptually more primitive problem of standard-of-living comparisons at the level of single individuals. The...

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