This paper proposes a framework that examines three levels of access to infrastructure -- nominal, effective, and quality-adjusted access. Most conventional indicators measure nominal access --whether a household has physical access to a service in or near the house. By contrast, effective access incorporates functionality and use of service, and quality-adjusted access raises the bar by incorporating quality metrics. The paper illustrates the analytical utility of this conceptual framework by deploying data from a survey of 14,200 households in 15 Kenyan cities in 2012-13. First, the analysis finds that these cities fall far short of delivering universal access to basic infrastructure. Second, for most services there a large gap -- 3 to 41 percentage points—between nominal and effective access. When the bar is raised to include quality of service, the drop-off in the proportion of those with access is even more dramatic. These findings suggest that conventional nominal measures overreport the level of service in urban communities, and that current approaches to infrastructure delivery might be enhancing availability of a service without ensuring that the service is usable -- that is, functional, reliable and affordable. Third, there is an infrastructure access gap between nonpoor and poor households, as well as formal and informal settlements. Fourth, hedonic regression analysis reveals that four services -- electricity, water, toilets, and garbage collection—are associated with higher rents. The analysis has broader implications for understanding and measuring service access. It raises important questions as global discussions turn to indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals.
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