Normative Issues in Multidimensional Poverty Measurement

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

Normative Issues in Multidimensional Poverty Measurement Presentation

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Part 1
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Part 2

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Normative Issues in Multidimensional Poverty Measurement I

Normative Issues in Multidimensional Poverty Measurement II

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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, draft chapters. Chapter 6.
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:
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).
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).
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).
MCGILLIVRAY, M. (ed.) (2007), Understanding Well-Being: Concept and Measurement, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.