Poverty as Deprivation of Freedom: The Case of Vidigal Shantytown in Rio de Janeiro
Celia Lessa Kerstenetzky
This article applies the concept of poverty as insufficiency of basic capabilities in measuring living conditions of residents of a favela (shantytown) in Rio de Janeiro, the Vidigal favela. For this purpose, we develop a methodology to operationalize the capability approach. Our choice of this approach is justified by a perceived discrepancy between the ordinary judgments of the people of Rio de Janeiro, who generally regard favela dwellers as poor, and those of poverty experts, who believe that favela dwellers cannot be considered (income) poor on average. Our results show that while favela inhabitants may not be income poor, they are nonetheless very poor in freedom. Living in a favela by itself imposes a sizable discount on people's functionings. In addition, violence between drug gangs and between gangs and police, a common feature of Rio's favelas, interferes negatively with people's well-being and opportunities for collective action, in such a way that even the traditional social capital often considered a peculiar form of wealth of favela dwellers is being eroded by it.
Poverty, Capability approach, Favela, Rio de Janeiro, Social capital, Index of freedom,
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