Poverty and Inequality

Poverty and Inequality

Poverty and Inequality

Poverty and Inequality


This volume brings together leading public intellectuals- Amartya Sen, Martha C. Nussbaum, François Bourguignon, William J. Wilson, Douglas S. Massey, and Martha A. Fineman- to take stock of current analytic understandings of poverty and inequality.

Contemporary research on inequality has largely relied on conceptual advances several decades old, even though the basic structure of global inequality is changing in fundamental ways. The reliance on conventional poverty indices, rights-based approaches to poverty reduction, and traditional modeling of social mobility has left scholars and policymakers poorly equipped to address modern challenges.

The contributors show how contemporary poverty is forged in neighborhoods, argue that discrimination in housing markets is a profound source of poverty, suggest that gender inequalities in the family and in the social evaluation of the caretaking role remain a hidden dimension of inequality, and develop the argument that contemporary inequality is best understood as an inequality in fundamental human capabilities. This book demonstrates in manifold ways how contemporary scholarship and policy must be recast to make sense of new and emerging forms of poverty and social exclusion.


This book is dedicated to the simple premise that distributional issues of inequality and poverty must be approached with the same seriousness of purpose that is currently accorded the analysis of economic activity and output. Given this premise, an important goal is to develop a comprehensive framework for measuring poverty and inequality, ideally a framework truly the equal of our comparatively well-developed system for monitoring economic output. We have approached this formidable task by assembling an all-star cast of economists, sociologists, and philosophers and asking them to weigh in on the conceptual challenges that must be met in devising new approaches to measuring and understanding inequality and poverty.

The result, we think, is an extraordinary document that breaks new conceptual ground and provides the beginnings of a road map for measuring contemporary poverty and inequality. In some respects, it is fortunate that a comprehensive monitoring system has yet to be institutionalized, as it makes it possible to more readily build a new approach that is unencumbered by the narrow income-based formulations of the past. Although our contributors harbor no illusions about the difficulty of developing a true multidimensional monitoring system, there is much consensus that such a system should be our objective and that the conceptual and methodological obstacles, while daunting, can ultimately be overcome.

We well appreciate that some readers may approach a book on the conceptual foundations of poverty and inequality measurement with healthy skepticism. After all, haven't academics been discussing, debating, and documenting poverty and inequality endlessly, and isn't it high time to turn now to action rather than yet more debate? In the United States especially, the long-standing tendency has been to regard all academic study quite cynically . . .

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