New research paper proposes a measure of ‘destitution’ among the poor

OPHI has published a new Research in Progress Paper 42a titled ‘Measuring destitution in developing countries: An ordinal approach for identifying linked subset of multidimensionally poor’ by Sabina Alkire, Adriana Conconi and Suman Seth. In the paper, the authors note that overall poverty reduction may leave the poorest behind and thus it is a fair question to ask if the poverty reduction has taken place among the poorest of the poor.

A typical measurement approach is to set a more stringent poverty cutoff and assess the situation of those that are the poorest or destitute. In income poverty measurement, they are often referred as ultra poor. This paper instead pursues a multidimensional counting methodology, building on Alkire and Foster (2011) to understand the extent of destitution in 49 developing countries across the world using the same set of dimensions and indicators used for constructing the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) (Alkire and Santos 2010). Those who are poor according to these deeper deprivation cutoffs are classified as ‘destitute’.

The authors find surprisingly widespread destitution across these 49 countries housing 1.2 billion poor people – indeed around half of the MPI poor people are destitute by this measure. The paper also reports results sub-nationally for 41 countries, and illustrates how the overall change in poverty may be decomposed into changes affecting those that are destitute and those that are not.

You can read the paper here and you can find out more about the results of the Global MPI 2014 here.