WP98: The material and political bases of lived poverty in Africa: Insights from the Afrobarometer

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Working papers
2008
98
Mattes, Robert

The Afrobarometer has developed an experiential measure of lived poverty (how frequently people go without basic necessities during the course of a year) that measures a portion of the central core of the concept of poverty not captured by existing objective or subjective measures. Empirically, the measure has strong individual level construct validity and reliability within any cross national round of surveys. Yet it also displays inconsistent levels of external validity as a measure of aggregate level poverty when compared to other objective, material measures of poverty or well being. Surprisingly, however, we find that lived poverty is very strongly related to country level measures of political freedom. This finding simultaneously supports Sen's (1999) arguments about development as freedom, corroborates Halperin et al\’s (2005) arguments about the “democracy advantage” in development, and increases our confidence that we are indeed measuring the experiential core of poverty.