Intra-household inequality: A challenge for the capability approach?

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In this paper, the author examines the capability approach and how it applies in the context of individuals and families living together on unequal terms. The interpretations of agency, freedom, and choice in Sen's framework are analyzed from a feminist perspective, and the author suggests that these important concepts invite special attention in the presence of domestic power imbalances. Problems with the interpretations embedded in the capability approach are pinpointed and adjustments proposed. Drawing on the vast literature on household behavior in developing countries, the author argues that capabilities have a distinctly interdependent dimension. While the discussion of agency in the capability approach has been either normative or policy-oriented, exercises that seek to evaluate individual well-being should pay more attention to the existence of alternative types of power within the realm of the household.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-334
Number of pages241
JournalFeminist Economics
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003


  • Agency and choice
  • Amartya Sen
  • Capabilities
  • Gender relations and power
  • Intra-household inequality


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