OPHI working paper proposes multidimensional measure to tackle Roma poverty and exclusion

Researchers from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights have proposed a multidimensional poverty index (MPI) to better reflect the reality of poverty and exclusion faced by the Roma population – one of the biggest minorities in Europe.

The proposed MPI measures the deprivations people face in 12 equally weighted indicators of poverty and exclusion, which are grouped into 6 dimensions: basic rights, health, education, housing, standard of living and employment. People experiencing five to seven deprivations are considered to be multidimensionally poor, while those experiencing eight or more deprivations are considered to live in severe multidimensional poverty.

The researchers looked at multidimensional poverty rates among Roma and their non-Roma neighbours in the five EU countries with the highest Roma populations: Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic. Based on 2011 data, the findings revealed that Romania was the country with the greatest proportion of Roma living in multidimensional poverty (59%), followed by Bulgaria (42%). However, the researchers observed a decline in multidimensional poverty levels among Roma in both of these countries between 2004 and 2011. Significantly, while multidimensional poverty among non-Roma in Romania also decreased, there was a small increase in Bulgaria.

The analysis also revealed changes in the contribution of individual dimensions to overall poverty levels over time. In Bulgaria, for example, the contribution of access to employment, of education and of housing vulnerability declined but was offset by an increase in deprivation in health and individual rights. Romania followed a similar pattern, but improvement in employment and educational vulnerability was more pronounced than the deterioration in access to health and individual rights, resulting in a greater overall decrease in MPI.

The researchers argue that a major advantage of the MPI is its ability to reflect changes in different indicators and therefore track the impact of individual, sector-specific poverty-reduction policies. Policy interventions and resources can be targeted at areas most in need.

The paper also provides an overview of the available approaches and possible sources of information that can generate the data necessary for monitoring different aspects of Roma poverty and exclusion, recognising that data on the absolute number and distribution of the Roma population in the EU is often limited and incomparable.

In particular, the researchers argue that two important dimensions remain insufficiently covered by available data but are crucial to ensuring poverty measures capture more than socioeconomic status. These are ‘aspirations’, and ‘agency’ – the resources and opportunities required to reach those aspirations. They call for data on these dimensions to be generated through the thematic components in the standardised European social surveys

Read the full paper

Roma Poverty and Deprivation: The Need for Multidimensional Anti-Poverty Measures’ by Andrey Ivanov, Sheena Keller and Ursula Till-Tentschert, was published in the OPHI working paper series in July 2015.