Discussion Paper

No. 2011-41 | October 04, 2011
The Focus Axiom and Poverty: On the Co-existence of Precise Language and Ambiguous Meaning in Economic Measurement

Abstract

Despite the formal rigour that attends social and economic measurement, the substantive meaning of particular measures could be compromised in the absence of a clear and coherent conceptualization of the phenomenon being measured. A case in point is afforded by the status of a ‘focus axiom’ in the measurement of poverty. ‘Focus’ requires that a measure of poverty ought to be sensitive only to changes in the income-distribution of the poor population of any society. In practice, most poverty indices advanced in the literature satisfy an ‘income-focus’ but not a ‘population-focus’ axiom. This, it is argued in the present paper, makes for an incoherent underlying conception of poverty. The paper provides examples of poverty measures which either satisfy both income and population focus or violate both, or which effectively do not recognize a clear dichotomization of a population into its poor and non-poor components, and suggests that such measures possess a virtue of consistency, and coherent meaning, lacking in most extant measures of poverty available in the literature.

Paper submitted to the special issue
The Measurement of Inequality and Well-Being: New Perspectives 
 

JEL Classification

B40 D31 D63 I32 O15

Cite As

Subbu Subramanian (2011). The Focus Axiom and Poverty: On the Co-existence of Precise Language and Ambiguous Meaning in Economic Measurement. Economics Discussion Papers, No 2011-41, Kiel Institute for the World Economy. http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/discussionpapers/2011-41

Assessment



Comments and Questions


Anonymous - Referee Report 1
January 04, 2012 - 10:38

see attached file


Subbu Subramanian - Reply to Referee Report 1
January 11, 2012 - 10:59

Response to Referee 1 on MS 591

I am grateful to the referee for reading and commenting on my paper. I am encouraged by the referee’s remark that the paper deals with an issue which s/he finds challenging. The referee goes on to make four suggestions, all of which ...[more]

... strike me as being valid and useful, and which I have now incorporated in a revised version of the paper. The revised version now also carries an acknowledgement.


Subbu Subramanian - Revised Version
January 11, 2012 - 11:07

See attached file


Anonymous - Referee Report 2
February 23, 2012 - 14:24

See attached file


Subbu Subramanian - Reply to Referee Report 2
February 24, 2012 - 14:00

See attached file