Do capability and functioning differ? A study of U.K. survey responses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


A core feature of the capability approach is that a person's capabilities (what they are able to do and be in their life) can differ from their functionings (what they actually do and are in their life). However, the degree to which capability and functioning differ in practice is unclear. This paper investigates this issue, focusing on capability and functioning differences (CFD) across different aspects of life and different individuals. In the study, the ICECAP-A capability questionnaire was modified to measure both functionings and capabilities and was completed by U.K.-based convenience sample of 943 people. Around one third of people reported CFD in at least one area of their life, most commonly in terms of their "achievement." People were more likely to report CFD when they had a degree-level education and when they had impaired health. An additional finding was that capability varied more with education whereas functioning varied more with health status. This finding needs further examination, but it suggests that the choice of evaluative space may influence how priorities are set for public spending.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-479
JournalHealth Economics
Issue number3
Early online date24 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • Journal Article, capability approach , ICECAP , outcome valuation , well-being