Articles | Volume 57, issue 1
31 Mar 2002
 | 31 Mar 2002

A measure of vulnerability

S. van Dillen

Abstract. The article, based on an extensive field study carried out from 1995–1998 in a South Indian village, is concerned with the question of how vulnerable people can be identified and targeted. By focusing on the most important activity areas in the study village, i.e. on what people actually do, it is possible to see how social and spatial processes are tied up with each other. In the light of the fieldwork, a quantitative index of vulnerability is proposed. The purpose of this index is to measure the vulnerability of households in this particular setting, or at least to rank them according to their vulnerability. In keeping with the conceptual approach the index is not based on observed outcomes in the forms of incomes realised during the study period. Rather, by taking a close look at how such outcomes were achieved, it seeks to identify the core determinants of vulnerability which lay hidden in the complex social and spatial processes of everyday life in the study village. Under clearly defined conditions such indices may be helpful in targeting vulnerable groups. They are problematic with regard to both concept and method, however, in particular when applied in larger spatial and social contexts.