Capabilities and Achievements: An Empirical Study

Paul Anand, Martin van Hees

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper contributes to the development of the capabilities approach by showing that capabilities can, counter prevailing wisdom, be measured. By operationalising the capabilities element of Sen's non-welfarist theory, the paper develops the data required by this novel approach to welfare economics and by exploring relations to life-satisfaction (happiness) it also examines new economic co-variates of experienced utility. A postal questionnaire is designed to examine elements of Sen's theory of capabilities and implemented on a random sample of English voters. Analysis of survey results includes ordinal logistic regression models of overall capabilities, rank correlations between own capabilities and views about the distribution of capabilities, rank correlations between capabilities and achievements and a set of ordered logit models explaining achievements as a function of corresponding capabilities. Furthermore, results show that it is possible to make statistically significant distinctions between different capabilities, that perceptions of others' capabilities are sometimes related to own capabilities and that achievements appear, in general, to be related to corresponding capabilities. Finally, and in keeping with oft-found paradoxes in the happiness literature, an examination of co-variates suggests that satisfaction with capabilities might be negatively related to objective measures of opportunity. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-284
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Socio-Economics
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


  • Achievements
  • Capabilities
  • Empirical social choice
  • Freedom
  • Ordered logit model behavioural economics


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