Free Essay Sample «Poverty as Capability»

«Poverty as Capability»


In most cases, scholars argue that low income is the cause of poverty. This argument is correct because, without a proper income, a person will not be able to sustain his basic needs resulting to poverty. On the other hand, it is not true to state that low income is not the only cause of poverty. In this case, low income does not cause itself. This means that there are various factors that lead to low income. These factors can be referred to as capabilities. For this reason, a better way to fight poverty is to enhance the capabilities of people. Therefore, this paper argues how the use of capability deprivation to fight poverty is better than income deprivation.


According to Amartya Sen, it is extremely essential to enhance people with capabilities for purposes of eradicating poverty. This means that poverty exists because of capability deprivation. Moreover, Sen adds that low income is a factor of poverty, but it is because of capability deprivation, there is a low income leading to poverty. On the other hand, income deprivation does not affect capabilities because a person needs to have abilities for purposes of earning a proper income (p 2). Therefore, in order to understand Sen’s arguments, it is valuable to understand what capability means in this context.

Capability is the ability a person has to earn a proper living for purposes of improving the living conditions. The level of education, health, acts of God, age and social injustices are among the different factors of capability (p 2). For instance, a person who has low education levels does not have the ability to seek proper employment leading to poverty. In addition, a person with poor health or residing in a region prone to floods or draught does not have the ability to generate a proper income leading to poverty. In this case, lack of capability is capability deprivation (p 3). Therefore, capability is the resources or situations available to a person for purposes of generating proper income to improve his or her living standards.

On the other hand, it is extremely valuable to learn about income deprivation for purposes of understanding why capability deprivation is a powerful tool of finding ways to fight poverty. According to Sen, income deprivation is simply lack of a proper income (p 3). This is where a person receives a lower income in accordance to the country standards of living. This is because in some countries what is low income is actually a high income in other countries. Therefore, level of income deprivation depends on the countries level of living conditions.

For that reason, based on the above two definition, it is clear that capability deprivation is a powerful tool for fighting poverty in comparison to income capabilities. This is where capability deprivation helps scholars to create strategies to help people eradicate poverty. For instance, the story ‘Swamp Nurses’ by Katherine Boo clearly explain a situation where nurses improve the capabilities to earn a living thus eradicating poverty (p 8). In this case, the nurses were visiting parents in those regions where babies were not likely to grow healthy. Poor health is among capabilities deprivation. For this reason, the nurses are giving medical care to children in areas that are susceptible to diseases. As a result, this increases the chances of capabilities in these regions reducing poverty levels (p 10).

Additionally, Boo argues that helping both parents and single parents in those areas prone to health deficiencies would increase the capabilities for them to earn a respectable living (p 11). This is because most parents have capability deprivation since they have to take care of their children. However, with the use of swamp nurses, these parents are able to seek employment and earn a proper living thus eradicating poverty (p 11). On the other hand, when these parents are trying to take care of their children, they spend a lot of money for the purposes of helping their children to survive. Therefore, despite the income they earn, they end up spending it all on health care (p 11). This clearly shows that using capability deprivation to find ways to solve poverty is better than using income deprivation.

In addition to the above, Sen also argues that it would be extremely wrong to narrow poverty challenges in health and education. This is because there are other factors like mental stability, social injustices, old age that cause capability deprivation (p 5). For example, Sen states that a person who has not attained adult age does not have the ability similarly does an elderly person. Moreover, a person who is not of sound mind or is emotionally disturbed does not have the ability to earn a proper living leading to poverty (p 5). For this reason, it would be essential for professionals to come up with ways to reduce emotional disturbance for purposes of reducing poverty.

Another scholar, Martha Nussbaum, shows how capability deprivation is applicable in reducing poverty using social injustice. According to Nussbaum, social injustice is unfair treatment of people of the same sex. In the society, women do not have equal treatments or rights like men (p 4). For this reason, women do not have the ability to earn a living in comparison to the men. In addition, the society does not give value or recognize the jobs women are doing in the society. As a result, women tend to suffer in poverty because their jobs do not have value (p 4). Moreover, women are not able to attain proper means to earn a living since their busy performing other duties.

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Finally, in using capability deprivation people are able to learn that environment plays a crucial role in ensuring the abilities of a person. A person be receive a high income, but he or she is never happy (p 6). On the other hand, he or she might be living in an area prone to acts of God like earthquakes, flooding or drought. As a result, he or she might end up spending a lot of money to become happy or find solutions to solve the acts of God once they happen. In the end, he or she will not be able to afford basic needs leading to poverty. Therefore, despite the high income a person is earning, he or she might end up becoming poor. Moreover, if a person is not happy, he or she will not be able to work to his maximum capacity (p 6). As a result, he or she ends up living in poverty due to lack of capabilities.

In using income deprivation, people can try to use means that will help them obtain a proper earning for purposes of reducing poverty. This is where they can try to get good jobs or more jobs that will help them receive a high income. This way people are going to reduce poverty drastically. This is an effective way because people living with poverty will be able to afford both secondary and basic needs (p 6). Therefore, this is going to eradicate poverty entirely. On the other hand, it can be difficult for people to earn a proper living thus making it difficult to use income deprivation.

First, income deprivation ways do not help in reducing poverty fully. For instance, a person can have a high income but can lack the capability resulting to poverty. In this case, Sen offers an example of a disabled person who has a high income but because he or she requires a lot of basic needs to survive, he or she may end up suffering in poverty (p 6). Another excellent example is where a person suffering from a chronic disease but has a high income. In this case, the disease tends to take the better part of this person capabilities. This is where the person has capability deprivation. He or she stops becoming productive, and all the money he or she earns is spent on the disease. As a result, this leads to poverty.

Finally, using income deprivation to end poverty is not the best strategy in comparison to using capability deprivation. This is because it would be difficult for a person to earn high income without the capabilities. For example, it would be difficult to eradicate poverty among the women if there is no social justice in the society. This is where the women do not have the ability to attain white collar jobs thus result to income deprivation. Therefore, it is extremely clear that it is more advantageous to use capability deprivation rather than using income deprivation.

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It is clear that capability deprivation is better in solving poverty challenges than income deprivation. This is because capability deprivation provides people with solutions that will help them earn a proper living. In this case, people are able to learn ways in which they can use to increase their abilities to earn a high income. For instance, the strategy of ‘Swamp Nurses’ helps a child to grow healthy increasing their chance to have abilities to an income. In income deprivation, it is difficult to establish how to reduce poverty because people have different needs and abilities. 



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