The Capability Approach: A Framework for Population Studies

  • Enrica Chiappero-Martinetti University of Pavia
  • Sridhar Venkatapuram King’s College London
Keywords: Human capabilities, Conversion factors, Functionings, Agency, Cairo


The aim of this paper is to present the main elements of the Capability Approach (CA) and discuss how and to what extent it can be a useful framework for capturing and analyzing population issues. Since the initial idea of Sen in 1979 to introduce the notion of human “capabilities” as a coherent alternative to measuring poverty, an extensive interdisciplinary school of thought has developed an analytical and normative framework that is outlined here in the first section. After introducing the CA, we sketch out a step-by-step procedure to use the CA in empirical analysis, focusing on the linkages among the plurality of circumstances at the individual, household and contextual levels. The fourth section discusses the approach shared by the CA and the population paradigm as formulated at the Cairo conference, which shifted away from aggregate indicators and biological functionings to a focus on choice and capabilities.

Author Biography

Enrica Chiappero-Martinetti, University of Pavia
Institute for Advanced Study