Disability as deprivation of capabilities: Estimation using a large-scale survey in Morocco and Tunisia and an instrumental variable approach

Jean Francois Trani, Parul Bakhshi, Derek Brown, Dominique Lopez, Fiona Gall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The capability approach pioneered by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum offers a new paradigm to examine disability, poverty and their complex associations. Disability is hence defined as a situation in which a person with an impairment faces various forms of restrictions in functionings and capabilities. Additionally, poverty is not the mere absence of income but a lack of ability to achieve essential functionings; disability is consequently the poverty of capabilities of persons with impairment. It is the lack of opportunities in a given context and agency that leads to persons with disabilities being poorer than other social groups. Consequently, poverty of people with disabilities comprises of complex processes of social exclusion and disempowerment. Despite growing evidence that persons with disabilities face higher levels of poverty, the literature from low and middle-income countries that analyzes the causal link between disability and poverty, remains limited. Drawing on data from a large case control field survey carried out between December 24th 2013 and February 16th 2014 in Tunisia and between November 4th 2013 and June 12th 2014 in Morocco, we examined the effect of impairment on various basic capabilities, health related quality of life and multidimensional poverty – indicators of poor wellbeing-in Morocco and Tunisia. To demonstrate a causal link between impairment and deprivation of capabilities, we used instrumental variable regression analyses. In both countries, we found lower access to jobs for persons with impairment. Health related quality of life was also lower for this group who also faced a higher risk of multidimensional poverty. There was no significant direct effect of impairment on access to school and acquiring literacy in both countries, and on access to health care and expenses in Tunisia, while having an impairment reduced access to healthcare facilities in Morocco and out of pocket expenditures. These results suggest that public policies in Morocco and Tunisia must create additional and targeted opportunities for persons with disabilities through innovative social arrangements to improve wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-60
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Capability approach
  • Inequities
  • Instrumental variable
  • Morocco
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Poverty
  • Tunisia


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