Category Archives: OPHI Working Papers

Multidimensional Inequality and Human Development

The measurement of inequality from a human development perspective is fundamental. We start this paper by briefly introducing the human development approach and its main conceptual basis: the capability approach. We note that inequality should preferably be assessed in the space of functionings, requiring the assessment methods to use multidimensional techniques. We then present the primary challenges inherent to multidimensional inequality measurement that are related to two types of distributional changes: one is concerned with the dispersions within distributions that are analogous to the unidimensional framework and the other, unlike the unidimensional framework, is concerned with the association between distributions. We next present a succinct review of the most prominent measures proposed in the literature within a unifying framework and review the empirical applications surrounding these measures. We note that while multidimensional inequality measures have a great potential to contribute to the monitoring of human development, there are some challenges to overcome in order to fulfil this potential.

Citation: Seth, S. and Santos, M. E. (2018). ‘Multidimensional inequality and human development’. OPHI Working Paper 114, University of Oxford.

Collective Choice and Social Welfare by Amartya Sen: A Review Essay with Reference to Development in Peru

This paper provides an overview of Sen’s revised edition of Collective Choice and Social Welfare (London: Penguin Books, 2017) and examines the relevance of its arguments in the context of Peru. It focuses on three main points: 1) a social choice approach for addressing global problems; 2) an expanded informational basis for making judgments; and 3) a public reasoning view of collective decision-making. The paper then discusses these points in relation to development policy in Peru. It critically analyses the human-social development strategy followed by the Peruvian government in recent years and, in particular, the capacity of public reasoning to reflect and sustain the priorities of the poorest and marginalized in the public policy agenda.

Citation: Deneulin, S. and Clausen, J. (2018). ‘Collective Choice and Social Welfare by Amartya Sen: a review essay with reference to development in Peru’. OPHI Working Paper 113, University of Oxford.

Multidimensional Poverty Reduction among Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

This paper focuses on changes in multidimensional poverty as measured by the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (global MPI) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using data for 35 countries, we describe the changes in level, intensity, and composition of multidimensional poverty at the national level. For a subset of countries we discuss results at the subnational level and provide a brief comparison to changes in income poverty. Our findings suggest that 30 countries, home to 92% of the population in our sample, significantly reduced multidimensional poverty as measured by the global MPI for at least one comparison and significantly reduced the share of poor people. Looking within countries, we find different patterns of poverty reduction, with some countries reducing poverty for the poorest regions while poorer regions in other countries do not seem to benefit from the general reduction in poverty to the same extent. When comparing trends in income and multidimensional poverty reduction we find significant differences, indicating that a holistic approach to poverty reduction should look at both multidimensional and income poverty.

Citation: Alkire, S., Jindra, C., Robles-Aguilar, G., and Vaz, A. (2017). ‘Multidimensional poverty reduction among countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.’ OPHI Working Paper 112, University of Oxford.

Human Development, Inequality, and Poverty: Empirical Findings

This paper is devoted to the discussion of empirical findings related to research on the measurement of human development, inequality, and poverty. It is divided into three main sections. In the first of these three sections, we discuss some practical concerns raised about the Human Development Index and how these concerns have been empirically addressed. In the second of these sections, we discuss various empirical studies and findings relating to the level of human development and the level of inequality in human development. Finally, we discuss the empirical research and findings relating to multidimensional poverty.

Citation: Seth, S. and Villar, A. (2017). ‘Human development, inequality, and poverty: Empirical findings’. OPHI Working Paper 111, University of Oxford.

Measuring Human Development and Human Deprivations

This paper is devoted to the discussion of the measurement of human development and poverty, especially in United Nations Development Program’s global Human Development Reports. We first outline the methodological evolution of different indices over the last two decades, focusing on the well-known Human Development Index (HDI) and the poverty indices. We then critically evaluate these measures and discuss possible improvements that could be made.

Citation: Seth, S. and Villar, A. (2017). ‘Measuring human development and human deprivations’. OPHI Working Paper 110, University of Oxford.

Transitions in Poverty and Deprivations: An Analysis of Multidimensional Poverty Dynamics

This paper explores a novel way to analyse poverty dynamics that are specific to certain measures of multidimensional poverty, such as the “adjusted headcount ratio” proposed by Alkire and Foster (2011a). Assuming there is panel data available, I show that a simultaneous and comprehensive account of transitions in deprivations and poverty allows complex interdependencies between dimensions in a dynamic context to be handled and, at the same time, allows for several advanced types of analyses. These analyses include (i) a decomposition of changes in multidimensional poverty, which reveals why poverty decreases or increases; (ii) a framework to examine and understand the relationship between the dashboard approach and dimensional contributions and multidimensional poverty in a dynamic setting; (iii) a presentation of methods that illuminate the process of the accumulation of deprivations. The suggested types of analyses are illustrated using German panel data. The implications for monitoring, policy evaluation and strategies for analyses using repeated cross-sectional data are discussed.

Citation: Suppa, N. (2017). “Transitions in poverty and deprivations: An analysis of multidimensional poverty dynamics.” OPHI Working Paper 109, University of Oxford

Measuring Malnutrition and Dietary Diversity: Theory and Evidence from India

Adequate nutrition constitutes one of the most basic dimensions of human well-being. Ample evidence exists for the functional link between a diverse diet and health outcomes or economic performance. However, a concise measure to capture nutritional diversity that utilizes typical household-level data, often the only data available in developing countries, is yet to be developed. In this paper, I propose a theoretical framework for such a measure by extending the Alkire-Foster (AF) methodology. The new framework enables the calculation of both the incidence and intensity of nutritional deprivation. Applying this framework, I construct a Nutritional Deprivation Index (NDI) for Indian states using household survey data on food consumption. The NDI is unique, and, compared to existing measures, it is more effective in both identifying the inadequately nourished and revealing the extent of food deprivation.

Citation: Oldiges, C. (2017). “Measuring malnutrition and dietary diversity: Theory and evidence from India.” OPHI Working Paper 108, University of Oxford.

Measures of Human Development: Key Concepts and Properties

The measurement of human development is a rich field which has seen a veritable explosion of new and innovative international indices. With the advent of the Sustainable Development Goals’ and their emphasis on interlinkages across deprived conditions, and with the promise of a ‘data revolution’ it seems that the proliferation of new indices that track multiple inter-related phenomena will continue. This paper sets out two basic set of criteria that, we believe, would be very helpful for structuring new policy metrics, and would provide human development experts, statisticians, and others with tremendously useful concepts to bear in mind when assessing and using different societal indices. The first criteria, ably articulated in Foster Seth Lokshin and Sajaia recently, is to clarify whether a human development indicator measures well-being, inequality, or poverty. These features of any population are distinct and each are of singular importance, but it is also useful not to confuse them. The second criterion is to ensure that the structure of the index is clearly explained. In particular, we discuss the importance of clarifying four methodological features: whether an index can be broken down by indicator; whether it can be disaggregated by population subgroup; whether it reflects the joint or overlapping conditions of a person, or evaluates dimensions one by one, and what kinds of weights or values are used to construct the composite index. While these criteria may seem, on the face of it, rather dry, a clear answer to each is essential (and also rather powerful) to understanding the policy relevance of each index.

Citation: Alkire, S. (2016). “Measures of Human Development: Key concepts and properties.” OPHI Working Paper 107, University of Oxford.

Composite Indices, Alternative Weights, and Comparison Robustness

Composite indices are widely used and can be highly influential. Yet most remain controversial owing to inter alia the arbitrary selection of component weights. Several studies have proposed testing the robustness of rankings generated by composite indices with respect to alternative weights but have not provided sufficient guidance on the choice of these alternatives. This paper proposes a holistic yet theoretically novel approach for selecting sets of alternatives weights and assessing comparison robustness that is applicable to linear composite indices with any finite number of dimensions. This approach is applied to robustness testing of inter-temporal country improvements generated by arguably the world’s most influential composite development index, the UNDP Human Development Index (HDI). More than two-thirds of HDI country improvements between 1980 and 2013 were found to be not robust to the selected set of alternative weights.

Citation: Seth, S. and McGillivray, M. (2016). “Composite indices, alternative weights, and comparison robustness.” OPHI Working Paper 106, University of Oxford.

Growth and Poverty Revisited from a Multidimensional Perspective

The actual impact of economic growth on poverty reduction is of fundamental importance to the development agenda, especially in view of the Sustainable Development Goals. So far, studies have focused on income poverty. This paper offers new empirical evidence on growth and poverty measured from a multidimensional perspective using the global Multidimensional Poverty Index. Results from a first difference estimator model suggest that while economic growth reduces multidimensional poverty, this impact is well below a one-to-one relationship. We also find that economic growth has a far bigger impact on reducing income poverty than on reducing multidimensional poverty. Results from an alternative cross-section model also support this result and additionally suggest that countries with higher levels of exports, a higher share of industry and services in their GDPs, and higher control of corruption have lower multidimensional poverty. All in all, the results highlight the need for countries to grow in order to reduce poverty, but they simultaneously suggest the limited power of economic growth per se to achieve grand reductions in poverty.

Citation: Santos, M. E., Dabus, C., and Delbianco, F. (2016). “Growth and poverty revisited from a multidimensional perspective.” OPHI Working Paper 105, University of Oxford.

Appendix