Normative Issues in Multidimensional Poverty Measurement 2010

Instructor: Sabina Alkire, OPHI Director

Class Objectives:

  • Choice of the unit of analysis
  • Order of aggregation
  • Choice of dimensions
  • Choice of variables/indicators for dimensions
  • Choice of poverty lines
  • Choice of weights
  • Choice of identification criterion & aggregate measures

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Normative Issues in Multidimensional Poverty Measurement

Exercise Files (zip file)

Datasets and supporting documents

Reading List
Suggested basic readings on this topic:

ALKIRE, S. and M. E. SANTOS (2008), “Measurement” in DENEULIN, S. and L. SHAHANI (eds) An Introduction to Human Development and Capability Approach,  Chapter 6. London, Earthscan.
ALKIRE, S. (2002), “Dimensions of Human Development” World Development 30: 181-205.
(This article surveys the ‘lists’ of dimensions of human development that have been proposed – on the basis of participatory planning or research, philosophy, synthesis of existing literature, cross-cultural psychology, psychology of human development, and so on).
ALKIRE, S. (2007), “Choosing Dimensions: The Capability Approach and Multidimensional Poverty.”
(This paper observes how researchers have, in practice, selected dimensions of poverty, and finds they generally use one of five methods).
DECANCQ, K. and M. A. LUGO (2008), “ Setting weights in multidimensional indices of well-being”. and the references therein.
FOSTER, J. E. (1998) “Absolute versus Relative Poverty” American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings. 88: 335-341.
RAVALLION, M. and S. CHEN (2009), “Weakly Relative Poverty” Policy Research Working Paper 4844, World Bank,

Further readings:
On the choice of dimensions:

GRUSKY, D. and R. KANBUR (eds) (2006). Poverty and Inequality. Stanford: Stanford University Press. “Introduction” (p 1-29).
(Kanbur’s introduction situates the rise of multidimensional poverty and inequality within economics from 1970 on, and identifies standing questions including how to choose dimensions. Grusky then introduces sociological approaches to multidimensional poverty, outlining their relation to previous research over the last 50 years).
MCGILLIVRAY, M. (1991), “The Human Development Index: yet another redundant composite development Indicator?”, World Development, 1461-68
MCGILLIVRAY, M. (ed.) (2007), Understanding Well-Being: Concept and Measurement, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.
RANIS, G., F. STEWART, and E SAMMAN. (2006). “Human Development: Beyond the Human Development Index.” Journal of Human Development 7(3): 323-358.
(This paper draws on various approaches to well-being, proposes eleven categories of human development, and identifies and examines certain indicators).
RANIS, G., F. STEWART. and E. SAMMAN (2006) Human Development: Beyond the Human Development Index. Journal of Human Development, Vol. 7, No. 3 (November).
RUGGERI-LADERCHI C. (2008), “Do concepts matter? An empirical investigation of the differences between a capability and a monetary assessment of poverty”, in COMIM, QIZILBAH and S. ALKIRE (eds), The Capability Approach: Concepts, Measures and Application, CUP, 2008.
SEN, A. K. (1992), Inequality Reexamined. Chapter 7: “Poverty and Affluence”. (This Chapter lays out the case for considering multiple dimensions of well-being or poverty – in Sen’s cases, through measures of capability – rather than focusing on income or utility).
SUDHIR, A. and A. SEN (1994) Human Development Index: Methodology and Measurement. Human Development Report Office Occasional Paper No. 12. UNDP, New York.

On the choice of weights:
BRANDOLINI, A. (2007), “On synthetic indices of multidimensional well-being: health and income inequalities in France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom”. ChilD Working Paper 07/2007.
CHERCHYE L, E OOGHE, and T V PUYENBROECK. (2008), “Robust human development rankings”, Journal of Economic Inequality, Volume 6 (4), 287–320.
CHOWDHURY, S. & SQUIRE, L. (2006). “Setting weights for aggregate indices: An application to the commitment to development index and human development index”, Journal of Development Studies 42(5): 761–771.
DECANCQ, K., and E. OOGHE (2010): Has the world moved forward? A robust multidimensional evaluation, Economic Letters 107: 266-269.
DIBBEN, C., ATHERTON, I., COX, M., WATSON, V., RYAN, M. and SUTTON, M. (2007), “Investigating the Impact of Changing the Weights that Underpin the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2004”, Department for Communities and Local Government Report, London.
FOSTER, J. E., MC GILLIVRAY, M. and S. SETH (2008), “Rank Robustness of Composite Indices”, OPHI Working Paper No 26.
WRIGHT, G., NOBLE, M. and WISEMAN, M. (2007), Towards A Democratic Definition of Poverty: Socially Perceived Necessities in South Africa, Published by the Human Science Research Council (HSRC) Press, Cape Town. On discussions of these issues all-together:
CAHILL M. B. (2005), “Is the human development index redundant?” Eastern Economic Journal 31(1), 1-5
KLASEN, S (2006) UNDP’s Gender-related Measures: Some Conceptual Problems and Possible Solutions Journal of Human Development, Vol. 7, No. 3 (November).
MCGILLIVRAY, M. (2007) Measuring Human Well-being: Key Findings and Policy Lessons, UNU Policy Brief, November 3.
MCGILLIVRAY, M. and F. NOORBAKHSH (2004) Composite Indices of Human Well-being: Past, Present, and Future, WIDER Research Paper No. 2004/63
NOORBAKHSH, F. (1998), The human development index: Some technical issues and Alternative indices, Journal of International Development, Vol 10, 589-605
RAWORTH, K and D. STEWART (2002) Critiques of the Human Development Index: a review in S. FUKUDA-PARR and A.K. SHIVA-KUMAR (eds) Readings in Human Development. New Delhi. Oxford University Press.
SAISANA, M., SALTELLI, A., TARANTOLA, S., (2005), “Uncertainty and sensitivity analysis as tools for the quality assessment of composite indicators” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Ser. A 168, 1–17
SCHULER, D. (2006) The Uses and Misuses of the Gender-related Development Index and Gender Empowerment Measure: a Review of the Literature Journal of Human Development, Vol. 7, No. 3 (November).