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  • Author or Editor: Julio Boltvinik x
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The chapter narrates the genesis of the IPMM’s improved variant (IV), describing two leaps: first, from independent unsatisfied basic needs (UBN) PMM and poverty line (PL) PMM, to their combination, adding a P criterium, to form IPMM’s original variant (OV); then, from the OV to the improved variant, IV-IPMM, for which UBN-IV was developed as well as the time-poverty procedure. The discussion explores how IV-IPMM overcomes OV-IPMM’s limitations. A figure depicting IV-IPMM shows a HH/individual’s final score results from combining UBN, income (Y) and time (T) scores and that UBN comprises eight components: health, social security, education, housing, sanitary conditions, communication services, durable goods, and energy. A table lists which N are verified by UBN, which by a mixed procedure, and which by PL. A synthesis of T methodology; defines PL as the cost of the normative basket of essential satisfiers (NBES) minus the cost of the items verified by UBN/mixed procedure. Pertinent Y for items included in PL is available Y after expenditures on UBN. The equation (specifying weights) to calculate IV-IPMM score from the scores of the three components is presented. All indicators were restricted so they can only vary from 0 to 2; scores above 2 were rescaled and if necessary truncated. The detailed description of the IPMM employs over 80 equations, presenting empirical illustrative results in 12 tables.

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Reproduction schemes (RS) are built for each of the five types identified in a typology of households (HH). These show the articulation of HH (via sales, purchases, taxes and transfers) with enterprises/government and are the foundation of the concept of HH’ well-being-sources (WBS), central to my critique of poverty measurement methods (PMM) and for IPMM. To conceptualise WBS, I define HH income; consumer goods/services as ready-to-consume use values; and consumption expenditures and actual consumption. I analyse savings/indebtedness, the determinants of consumption amount, diversity and quality knowledge/skills. Next, I establish equivalences between concepts included in the RS and WBS. As WB depends on the WBS identified (current income, non-basic assets, basic assets, access to free goods, knowledge/skills, free time), trends in social well-being (WB) will be the result of the evolution of their levels and distribution. Hence, poverty measurement must consider all WBS to avoid biased results as occurs with income poverty (or poverty line, PL) and unsatisfied basic needs (UBN) methods. I finish with a discussion of the concepts of needs, poverty, and satisfiers as well as a comparison of my WBS with lists of resources by diverse authors.

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First, I describe and innovatively interpret the most important APM and explain how to use them best. Next is a critique of APM sensitive to distribution among the poor, based on two questions: a) Why should the relevant inequality for an APM be the inequality among the poor excluding the non-poor? and b) Why should decreasing marginal well-being start from the very bottom, from the second soup spoon? Nutritional evidence is shown to prove that this assumption is false; in food intake there is a stage of increasing marginal well-being to food additions. Dasgupta has called this the high fixed cost of living. APM sensitive to distribution among the poor are thus demolished, and I propose two new APM sensitive to total social inequality. One focuses on the inequality between the poor and the non-poor, which follows the logic of Sen’s poverty index but instead of the Gini coefficient (G) among the poor introduces what I call the relative gap between the average achievement score (A) of the poor (AP) and that of the non-poor (AR): which is GPR = (AR − AP) / AR. The second replaces G among the poor by G among the whole population in Sen’s APM. Illustrative results for Mexico are presented.

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I identify four groups of poverty definitions (PD): the N conventional approach (NCA); Townsend’s and Sen’s definitions, which are failed searches for a new approach (FSNA) as they try to replace N (with lifestyles and capabilities, respectively); the dominant economistic approach (DEA); and the New Paradigm (NP)’s definitions. Since utility is unobservable, the DEA in fact replaces it with the ‘satisfaction of expectations’ or by a tautology in which poverty is ‘insufficiency of income to reach a referential level of income’. I build typologies of N, satisfiers (S) and WBS, and in a table organise them into my holistic view of the economic process of N satisfaction. I classify N in four groups following Maslow. On the basis of Marxian philosophical anthropology, I identify seven types of S. WBSs are classified as stated in Chapter 1. PD are characterised by the breadth/narrowness of their N-conceptions, including S and WBS. NCA and FSNA are reductionist in three dimensions which are structurally linked. The DEA rejects the concept of N placing itself in a conceptual vacuum. The table also expresses the NP’s vision of the economic perspective of N satisfaction, evidencing the enormous gap between the Political Economy of Poverty (PEP)’s conceptions and mine.

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The typology classifies poverty (P) measurement methods (PMM) into normative (N), semi-normative (SN) and non-normative (NN), as well as direct/indirect and one-dimensional/multidimensional. Combined PMM use both direct and indirect indicators. Direct PMM are based on reported household (HH)/individual living conditions. Indirect PMM identify if HH resources are enough to meet needs (N). My typology is compared with Ringen’s and with PMM described by Gordon et al. Five groups of PMM were consolidated: non-normative, indirect one-dimensional, indirect bi-dimensional, direct, and combined. The chapter describes/criticises non-normative methods which are all indirect one-dimensional and don’t base their P line (PL) on N. I don’t consider them as proper PMM, as P is a normative concept. The chapter describes/assesses indirect and direct, N/SN PMM included individually. As all are partial, the critique of not considering all well-being sources (WBS) is applicable to all of them. Five are PL-PMM, but they differ on how they define PL. Two are food-P-only PMM, one is an overall income PMM, one is subjective PL, and the last, objective PL. Three bi-dimensional income–time PMM are included. They assume time as a WBS.

All directPMM are normative-multidimensional. Two are Latin American: the original variant (OV) and the improved (IV) of unsatisfied basic needs (UBN). Both deprivation index variants are British. Enforced Lack of Socially Perceived Necessities (ELSPN), based on a survey of perceptions, presents a step forward but has problems. The Acute Poverty Index (UNDP) is ultra-minimalist; its thresholds do not respect the dignity principle. The Individual Deprivation Measure (IDM) replaces usual HH measures with an individual one; it is based on participatory research. Revealed/objective UBN thresholds PMM identifies UBN profiles of the income-poor/non-poor and classifies a HH as poor/non-poor according to how close their UBN-profile is to those profiles.

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This chapter shows the lack of any satisfactory answer on the constitutive element(s) of the good life. Utility, opulence/real-income, Rawls’s primary goods and the capability approach (CA) are critically assessed. I adopt Rawls’s (expensive and offensive tastes) critique as well as Sen’s (cheap tastes) one, which defeat utilitarianism. I develop a critique of Neoclassical Consumer Theory (NCT), endorsing Penz’s critique and adding mine that shows that NCT rejects N but reintroduces them surreptitiously and does not resist the introduction of N. Some of its axioms are invalid for poor and upper classes and would work only for needless beings (robots). I address Sen’s CA, endorsing critiques that view it as an empty theory that requires specification and substantiation, minimises humans’ passive side and overvalues freedom. My own critique adds that it is mechanistic: functionings depend only on income and entitlements, that is, on consumption of G&S; it is a theory of capabilities without capacities, in which possessing commodities is the unique capacity. I criticise Nussbaum’s CA, which is different from Sen’s and much closer to my New Paradigm (NP), on two grounds: the non-problematisation of capitalism through concepts as alienation and her reduction to capability of all good-life elements. The chapter ends synthesising my New Paradigm of Poverty and Human Flourishing (NPPHF).

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This chapter examines the following principles of poverty conceptualisation. 1. Totality. Identifying active restrictions on needs (N) satisfaction requires accepting that it involves all N, satisfiers (S) and well-being sources (WBS). Corollary: poverty is inability to satisfy all N. This negates the Political Economy of Poverty (PEP), which only recognises material/survival N, goods and services (G&S), and only conventional economic resources/income. 2. Comparability of well-being (WB). WBS and S are not the right spaces to appraise WB. Indicators must be re-expressed in the objective WB (OWB) space. Apparent non-comparability between indicators derives from not having made explicit their common nature: being WB dimensions. Building OWB scales is this methodological principle’s main purpose. 3. Poverty, an entangled concept. If one believes that only research activities devoid of value judgements, are scientific, poverty study would not be scientific, as it compares observed conditions with norms/thresholds that are value judgements. Poverty is (according to Putnam) a gross ethical concept, a moral issue requiring taking reasoned moral arguments seriously. 4. Dignity in threshold setting. Dignity can be thwarted but not extinguished. I endorse Altimir’s statement that ‘the absolute norm that defines the irreducible core of [poverty] is born of our current notion of human dignity and the universality of human rights’ (Altimir, 1979, p 11). We should reject thresholds that violate dignity. 5. Poverty is part of the conceptual standard of living axis (SLA). Poverty studies must adopt the same OWB as the study of the standard of living. 6. Full normativity. Dimensions and thresholds must be normatively based. Using observed parameters as norms reflects rejecting principle 3, assuming an uncritical position and frequently acting in defence of the status quo.

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This chapter explores the principle (Pr) of decreasing marginal objective well-being (OWB) and the Pr of the existence of a maximum OWB. OWB-scales require: 1) defining normative-thresholds and identifying maximum OWB; 2) normalising scales, equalising ranges, and setting normative thresholds at the same point (score 1); 3) applying these Pr above normative thresholds on the bases of satiation reality of most needs (N), and the fact that consumption (C) results from concurrent time (T) and goods and services (G&S): as T cannot be increased/accumulated, when G&S increase, effective C is limited by fixed T, which generates decreasing marginal OWB and maximum OWB. It goes on to discuss the Pr of minimum error (PME). Most researchers exclude non-income indicators or do not cardinalise them, assigning excluded indicators a zero weight: the largest-possible- error. Regarding the Pr of complete and replicable cardinalisation (PrCRC) /generalised dichotomisation (GD), usually, non-cardinal variables are dichotomised: the worst solution gets a 0 score; the normative solution scores 1; intermediate solutions are also given a 0 score although they deserve intermediate scores, resulting in a huge information loss and a violation of PME. In the Integrated Poverty Measurement Method (IPMM), PrCRC is applied, rescuing intermediate values and respecting PME. I developed PrCRC, which is an algorithm. Scores are cardinal, which allows calculation of all aggregate poverty measures (APM). PrCRC generates equidistant CCRD. PrCRC does not mean eliminating normative judgements; these are present in the ordering of solutions and in defining the true thresholds. Compared to dichotomisation, GD reduces measurement errors substantially. Finally, the chapter examines the Pr of symmetry. Truncated poverty lines (PL) which reflect only the cost of one or a few N, cannot be compared with total current income (Y); truncated PL should be compared with available Y to meet the N it includes. Comparing truncated PL with total household income (HHY), is the asymmetry error.

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In March 1980, I started working as Director of Essential Needs in COPLAMAR, an agency attached to the President’s Office in Mexico and responsible for improving the living conditions in the country’s poor areas and among groups designated as marginalised. My role was to coordinate a research team of around 20 professionals working on the unsatisfaction of essential needs in Mexico. This team was the largest part of the agency’s General Direction of Socioeconomic Studies. I started studying poverty from the standpoint of unsatisfied needs, which to this day has been the central element in my conception of poverty. COPLAMAR was shut down in December 1982 with the arrival of a new federal government; however, understanding and fighting poverty has been my vocation and main occupation since that time. Although from the beginning of this century I have broadened my outlook and started aiming at the more ambitious purpose of human flourishing (to which I added, in the second decade of this century, the fashionable topic of well-being (WB), including subjective WB), poverty remains among my core tasks. I am aware that achieving human flourishing and generalised WB is impossible, or is only possible for a reduced elite, if poverty is not overcome first. I have worked with international organisations (particularly the UNDP and CROP); in Mexican left-wing political parties; in the Mexican Congress; in the Mexico City government; as a journalist in the critical national newspaper La Jornada, writing a weekly column called Moral Economy since 1995; and primarily in the academic world as a full-time researcher and Professor at El Colegio de México – a postgraduate and research institution devoted to the social sciences and the humanities in Mexico City – since 1992, and also as a visiting professor at the British Universities of East Anglia, Bristol, and Manchester. My work in all these institutions has largely focused on poverty, social policy, and human flourishing.

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This book integrates my best texts on poverty conceptualisation/measurement over 35 years, presenting an innovative approach practically unknown in English. The core breakthrough is the holistic view that culminates in the Integrated Poverty Measurement Method (IPMM). The book provides the critique to support this approach, reflected in conceptual discussions and critical appraisals that constitute the Critique of the Political Economy of Poverty (CPEP), including systematised criticism of salient poverty measurement methods. I appropriated positive ideas from many authors and intertwined them with the concepts I developed to build the narrative, which becomes transparent in principles and good practices. Three distinctive features delineate. a) It includes free time (FT) – going beyond combined methods that include only income/consumption and unsatisfied basic needs (UBN) – thus broadening the range of phenomena considered, including domestic chores, caring, and leisure activities. b) It avoids dichotomic indicators by cardinalising ordinal variables, allowing the calculation of a synthetic final metric indicator and the more elaborated aggregate poverty measures (APM). Chapter 9 discusses existing APM, interprets them innovatively, shows the conceptual flaws of those that are sensitive to distribution among the poor, and proposes an APM that integrates social inequality. c) Regarding income, IPMM introduces innovations and calculates a specific poverty line for each household.

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