2013 Case studies

Multidimensional Poverty Index

Case Studies from the Ground

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) identifies poor people whose lives are battered by several deprivations at the same time. Starting from their lives, it builds a national poverty measure that reflects the experiences of poverty by citizens across the country.

But who are these people? To answer this question we spoke with people who were poor according to the MPI in their country. We learned about their lives – their hopes and strengths, and their challenges. Naturally their lives are far richer than any measure can capture. You can hear and read some of their stories below.

Illuminating People’s Lives Booklet (pdf)



Phuba is 72 years old and lives with her son, daughter-in-law and their child, her granddaughter, Pelden. Phuba brims with life and walks quickly up the mountain paths with a stick. Though being sick is a worry, Phuba is proud because even at her advanced age, she remains strong.

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Sangay and Mindu

Sangay is 58 years old and lives in a small Bhutanese village with his wife Mindu and their three children. Sangay is a lay monk which means that, though he has no fixed job, he is always on call, ready to help when any member of the village needs him to come to their home.

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Sonam is 45 years old lives with her five children. She was married for over 20 years, but her husband no longer lives at home with the rest of the family. She farms her own land and earns money by working on other peoples’ land. This extra income helps to pay for her children’s education.

Tashi and Jamyang

Tashi and Jamyang live with their three children in a small Bhutanese village. With their land and work as casual labourers they have enough to eat for the family’s basic needs. However they don’t have enough money to construct a durable house, so they live in a thatched hut.

Dominican Republic

Manuel and Lola

Manuel and Lola live in the Dominican Republic with their 10-year old daughter. He works as a farmer, selling what he can. She’d like to have a business or trade of her own and says “Life is not good…We need money—not that I need money, but we need money for doctors”.

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Pedro and Mercedes
Pedro and Mercedes live with their three children. He is a small-scale farmer, growing chillies to sell. They are MPI poor primarily because their living conditions are of poor quality. He says: “I want to help my children, to get them educated.”
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Rolando is 61 years old and lives with his wife, Beatriz. To get by, he picks left over coffee from the ground at a nearby coffee plantation. He picks the coffee that falls to the ground and would be otherwise lost. “I get to it before the rats do,” is how he describes this work.


Rabiya Rabiya
Rabiya, 35, lives with her with two teenage sons in Bihar, India’s poorest state. To support her sons, and owning no land of her own, she works as a daily wage-labourer on the fields of local farmers, often for a fraction of the legal minimum wage…
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Adil Adil
Adil, 32, lives with his wife, two daughters and son in a poor hamlet in the Indian state of West Bengal. Twice a year he leaves his family behind to seek employment in Mumbai. He worries about them when he’s gone, but says “we now have three meals a day, instead of the one or two that we could barely manage before I left”…
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Kari, 45, lives with her husband in a village in Bihar, India. Although she and her husband were unable to send their three grown daughters to school, she says that “we never saw our three girls as liabilities, and were very happy when they were born. They grew up to be fine young women, who have made us proud”…


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Ann Sophia, 37, is a single parent living with her four children in a slum, just outside Nairobi. She suffers from a debilitating illness which seriously impacts her life, but is unable to afford the necessary treatment…

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With her husband and seven children, Dalma, 30, lives in a Nairobi slum. Their earnings are often not enough to support the family with food and other essentials, but she encourages her children to go to school to keep them happy and occupied and to use the school’s feeding programme …

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Tabitha, 44, lives with her family in a poor area of Nairobi. The main breadwinner, she depends on casual jobs like washing clothes or finding old clothes in the rubbish dump to sell. Despite her low income, her four school-aged children attend school and she has high hopes for their future…


Agathe, around 70 years old, lives with six members of her family. She collects used cans and bottles from the rubbish tip to sell and is keen to remain independent. When her children offer to support her she replies: “I must have money in my pocket for my tobacco”…
stephanie Stéphanie
Aged 35, Stéphanie lives in a small makeshift cabin, with a dirt floor and no water or electricity, in one of the poorest areas of Antananarivo, Madagascar. A single parent, she lives with her four children and granddaughter, and is her family’s main breadwinner. She supports them by selling salvaged garbage, and with the proceeds buys the family’s dinner (usually their only main meal)…

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Valérie, 32, lives in one of the poorest areas of Madagascar’s capital city with her husband and three children. They live in a little cabin made of recovered wood with a roof made of plastic bags. Her children used to go to primary school but left recently because Valérie and her husband were behind with the fees…


Fifty-five year old Endah lives with her mother, 90, and her two sons outside the city of Sragen, Indonesia. She collects dry grass to trade as animal food in return for money. She wishes most of all for a better home and more support in caring for her severely disabled son…
Jiyem is around 70 years old and lives with her blind husband, her son (who is mentally handicapped), her daughter in law, and their malnourished three-year-old grandson. She is able to make jokes and laugh but her situation is very precarious. “I cannot picture what wellbeing means,” she says…