UNDP blog post: The poor by any other name

What urban poverty studies in Viet Nam might tell us about the changing face of Asian poverty

By Richard Marshall, Nguyen Bui Linh and Sarah Reed, UNDP

Reblogged from UNDP in Asia and the Pacific

Roughly 54 per cent of the world’s population now lives in cities, with Asia and Africa urbanizing faster than other regions. Urbanization is generally seen as a route to rising prosperity and better living standards. But critical researchers like David Sattherthwaite and Diana Mitlin argue that standard ways of measuring poverty underplays its significant scale.

The risks? Without a complete understanding of the nature and scope of urban poverty, policymakers may fail to prioritize and worse still, lack the tools to tackle it. This, even as more and more people move to cities in search of jobs, better schools for their children, more security and better public services among a laundry list of benefits conflated with life in the cities.

Since 2009, the United Nations Development Programme has worked with Viet Nam’s Ho Chi Minh City authorities  to assess poverty using the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) a lens that is less susceptible to the shortcomings that more traditional yardsticks are riddled with.

Developed by the globally-acclaimed poverty gurus Sabina Alkire and James Foster, the MPI allows us to measure the extent and intensity of poverty by unpacking the deprivations that manifest themselves to make an individual or family ‘poor’ (e.g. health, education, and living standards), rather by looking simply at amount of money households earn or spend.