Poverty: Identification and Aggregation
COMMODITIES AND CHARACTERISTICS
It was argued in the last chapter that the measurement of poverty can be split into two distinct operations, viz. the identification of the poor, and the aggregation of their poverty characteristics into an over-all measure. The identification exercise is clearly prior to aggregation. The most common route to identification is through specifying a set of 'basic' -- or 'minimum' -- needs,1 and regarding the inability to fulfil these needs as the test of poverty. It was claimed in the last chapter that considerations of relative deprivation are relevant in specifying the 'basic' needs, but attempts to make relative deprivation the sole basis of such specification is doomed to failure since there is an irreducible core of absolute deprivation in the concept of poverty. Within the general perspective that was presented in the last chapter, some detailed -- and more technical -- issues are taken up in this chapter before moving from identification to aggregation.
Are the basic needs involved in identifying poverty better specified in terms of commodities, or in terms of 'characteristics'? Wheat, rice, potatoes, etc., are commodities, while calories, protein, vitamins, etc., are characteristics of these commodities that the consumers seek.2 If each characteristic could be obtained from only one commodity and no others, then it would be easy to translate the characteristics needs into commodity needs. But this is very often not the case, so that characteristics requirements do not specify commodity requirements. While calories are necessary for survival, neither wheat nor rice is.____________________