Micro-foundations of Fragility: Concepts, Measurement and Application

In this paper, we explore the micro-foundations of fragility by discussing how to measure the exposure to fragility at the individual level. In particular, we focus on two important notions that are not covered by existing indicators of fragility at the aggregate level. First, different individuals or societal groups may experience fragility very differently. Second, even though a country as a whole may not be “fragile”, individuals living there may be exposed to manifestations of fragility. This differentiation is particularly important as it suggests that the experience of fragility varies not just at national levels but also between sub-national regions and, indeed, between households and individuals. To test this idea, we define the novel concept “exposure to fragility”, which accounts for human security, economic inclusion and social cohesion. Building on this definition, we derive a series of metrics that can be collected in typical household surveys and test the performance of this “fragility exposure module” in an on-going survey in Kenya. Analysis of this data shows that individuals living in rural areas, as well as young and single individuals, exhibit greater exposure to fragility. These findings demonstrate the importance of understanding fragility at the individual level, particularly as it provides the basis to understanding which regions or people would benefit most from pro-stability interventions and to how these interventions perform.