MGS Alum Udaya Wagle, PhD
PhD in Public Policy, 2005
- Associate Professor and Doctoral Program Director, School of Public Affairs, Western Michigan University
To say that Udaya Wagle undertook an ambitious dissertation would be an understatement.
To complete his research titled "A Multidimensional Approach to Poverty: Economic Well-being, Capability, and Social Inclusion in the City of Katmandu," Udaya surveyed 625 randomly selected households in 35 city wards in Katmandu, Nepal, and, along the way, developed a convincing new methodology to measure poverty.
According to his dissertation advisor, Professor Randy Albelda, "I've worked with many excellent students in the Public Policy Program but, in many ways, Udaya has jumped over everyone's bar by tackling theory and publishing his new model and preliminary findings in several international journals."
The issues of poverty and human well-being have drawn enormous attention from social scientists and development practitioners. Studies suggest that poverty is related to economic well-being, capability, and social exclusion. According to Udaya "when it comes to defining, measuring, and explaining poverty, an excessive emphasis is placed on income or economic well-being, perhaps underestimating the roles of capability and social exclusion."
Katmandu presents a case of today's emerging, multiethnic urban centers in the developing world in which economic growth has not improved the well-being of its citizens - especially those of the lowest strata. While there are a host of potential reasons why some households fare worse than others, Udaya felt that the lack of basic capability (including good education and health) and the presence of social processes inhibiting economic, political, and civic/cultural participation of households deserved special consideration.
Using survey data, Udaya sought to explain household poverty in Kathmandu. In the end, his findings not only support the multidimensionality hypothesis but his study offers a comprehensive analytical tool that can be replicated in the measurement of poverty outcomes. His dissertation makes substantive policy contributions by disentangling how poverty is constructed, involving a sophisticated interaction among various poverty dimensions. It recommends that policymakers focus on housing conditions, micro- and macro-level neighborhood segregation, and caste and ethnic discrimination to enhance capability and civic/cultural integration that would improve the overall well-being especially among the abject poor.
The day after defending his dissertation, Udaya Wagle and his family drove west to begin the next chapter in their lives. Wagle accepted a faculty position in the Department of Public Affairs at Western Michigan University. We salute him and his outstanding research and wish him nothing but the best in his career.