Category Archives: Publications

The Research Agenda on Multidimensional Poverty Measurement: Important and As-yet Unanswered Questions

The application of multidimensional poverty measures is proliferating, in part due to the emphasis in Goal 1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions.  This paper first traces the emergence of a priority for non-monetary poverty measures in key texts that consid­ered then set out the SDGs. It then outlines some vital and feasible research questions on a sub-set of fascinating empirical topics on counting-based multidimensional measures. The topics covered here relate to the SDGs’ focus on measuring the multidimensional poverty of men, women, and children. Building on the existing literature, fascinating questions remain in terms of measurement design (the selection of dimensions, indicators, cutoffs, and weights), the analysis of multidimensional poverty measures, their application to child poverty and their implementation using gendered data. In each of these areas, it is expected that significant breakthroughs are possible.

Citation: Alkire, S. (2018). ‘The research agenda on multidimensional poverty measurement: important and as-yet unanswered questions’, OPHI Working Paper 119, University of Oxford.

Multidimensional Poverty Measures as Relevant Policy Tools

Poverty measurement is strewn with imperfection. And yet, even understanding limitations such as data quality and coverage, measures of multidimensional poverty have proven to be relevant policy tools. This paper first situates muldimensional poverty measures in the Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to End Poverty in all its forms and dimensions (italics added). It then explains a key distinguishing feature between multidimensional and monetary poverty measures, namely, that multidimensional poverty measures have an associated ‘information platform’ which provides the deprivations in each indicator, as well as the headcount ratio or poverty rate, and the intensity of poverty overall, and does so both nationally and for all groups by which the dataset can be disaggregated. Furthermore, multiple poverty lines are often set and reported. Bearing this informational richness in mind, the paper then canvasses the main ways that policy actors are using multidimensional poverty indices (MPIs) and their associated informational platform to shape policy. For example, a permanent official MPI complements the national monetary poverty measure, often drawing attention to different groups of poor persons. Also, the MPI design often includes participatory exercises and expert consultations, thus catalysing a national conversation about what is poverty. Like any national statistic, the MPI is used to monitor change and show the trend in a phenomenon of public importance. Further, the MPI, with its disaggregation by group and breakdown by indicator, is often used as part of the budget allocation formulae, for example, across subnational regions. The MPI is also used for targeting in two senses: targeting the poorest areas or social groups, and also (using a different dataset), targeting households that are eligible to benefit from certain schemes. One of the most powerful roles of the MPI is to support policy coordination which – in line with the SDG emphasis – facilitates integrated multisectoral policies that can be more cost-effective and high-impact methods for addressing interconnected deprivations and managing change. Finally, for many countries, the MPI is part of a new emphasis on the transparency and accountability of statistics, for example by posting data tables, or even datasets and computer algorithms online so students and researchers can fruitfully join the intellectual task of finding better ways to confront human disadvantage and suffering. The paper closes by referring to some new research areas that might further enrich this unfolding discipline.

Citation: Alkire, S. (2018). ‘Multidimensional poverty measures as relevant policy tools’, OPHI Working Paper 118, University of Oxford.

Statistical Note: Disaggregating Bhutan’s MPI 2017 by Disability Status

Since 2010, Bhutan has used a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) alongside consumption poverty to measure and fight poverty in all its forms and dimensions. Bhutan’s National MPI was updated on 2012 and 2017 using the Bhutan Living Standards Survey (BLSS). In 2017, the BLSS questionnaire included questions on disability status. This statistical note shows different ways by which the MPI can be disaggregated using the available information. Each way is implemented, and the results analysed. Thus, by presenting worked out empirical examples, we hope to contribute to the evolving methodological discussions of how best to disaggregate poverty measures including the MPI by disability status. In addition, we hope to contribute to robust and detailed understanding in Bhutan of the relationship between poverty and disability status, hence to inform policies that seek to address both. However, survey data are limited, and so, very importantly, we also advise re-running these results with the 2017 census data for a more precise picture. It is hoped this note will provide some structure for a census-based analysis.

Citation: Pinilla-Roncancio, M. and Alkire, S. (2018). ‘Statistical note: disaggregating Bhutan’s MPI 2017 by disability status’, OPHI Research in Progress 51a, University of Oxford.

Walls of Glass: Measuring Deprivation in Social Participation

This paper proposes a measure for deprivation in social participation, an important but so far neglected dimension of human well-being. Operationalisation and empirical implementation of the measure are conceptually guided by the capability approach. Essentially, the paper argues that deprivation in social participation can often be convincingly established by drawing on extensive non-participation in customary social activities. In doing so, the present paper synthesizes philosophical considerations, axiomatic research on poverty and deprivation, and previous empirical research on social exclusion and subjective well-being. An application using high-quality survey data for Germany supports the measure’s validity. Specifically, the results suggest, as theoretically expected, that the proposed measure is systematically different from related concepts like material deprivation and income poverty. Moreover, regression techniques reveal deprivation in social participation to reduce life satisfaction substantially, quantitatively similar to unemployment. Finally, questions like preference vs. deprivation, cross-country comparisons, and the measure’s suitability as a social indicator are discussed.

Citation: Suppa, N. (2018): ‘Walls of Glass: Measuring Deprivation in Social Participation’ OPHI Working Paper 117, University of Oxford.

Measuring Sanitation Poverty: A Multidimensional Measure to Assess Delivery of Sanitation and Hygiene Services at the Household Level

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) are at the core of sustainable development. As we embark on a new round of global goals, namely the Sustainable Development Goals, a top priority is to address a coherent framework for monitoring these services. In the coming years, the sector will witness the development of a variety of multidimensional monitoring measures, albeit from different perspectives. This paper reviews the relevant literature and discusses the adequacy and applicability of one approach that is increasingly adopted for multidimensional poverty measurement at the household level, the Alkire-Foster methodol­ogy. Drawing on this method, we identify and combine a set of direct household-related water and sanitation deprivations that batter a person at the same time. This new multidimensional measure is useful for gaining a better understanding of the context in which WaSH services are delivered. It captures both the incidence and intensity of WaSH poverty, and provides a new tool to support monitoring and reporting. For illustrative purposes, one small town in Mozambique is selected as the initial case study.

Citation: Giné-Garriga, R. and Pérez-Foguet, A. (2018). ‘Measuring sanitation poverty: a multidimen­sional measure to assess delivery of sanitation and hygiene services at the household level’. OPHI Working Paper 116, University of Oxford.

The Measurement Properties of Multidimensional Poverty Indices for Children: Lessons and Ways Forward

This paper considers the measurement properties of indices used to measure multidimensional child poverty in the developing world. Two indices are considered in detail: the Alkire Foster method (Alkire & Foster 2010) and the ‘categorical counting’ method as exemplified by UNICEF poverty indices based on methodologies by Gordon et al. (2003) and De Neubourg et al. (2013). This analysis examines the underlying differences between the two methodologies in two stages. First, using hypothetical data we consider the differences in measurement properties that arise from the axiomatic construction of indices using a laboratory approach. Second, we use harmonized Demographic and Health Surveys data from three countries to examine how the properties found in the laboratory data lead to actual differences in the measurement of the prevalence of multidimensional poverty within and across countries, and the ability of indices to monitor changes in the prevalence of multidimensional poverty. The paper concludes by considering the findings from the analysis and how they could be taken forward in future measurements of poverty prevalence and reduction in Sustainable Development Goals targets and indicators.

Citation: Evans, M.C. and Abdurazakov, A. (2018). ‘The measurement properties of multidimensional poverty indices for children: lessons and ways forward’. OPHI Working Paper 115, University of Oxford.

Pobreza multidimensional en Chile: Incorporación de Entorno y Redes

OPHI Briefing 50 (pdf 8 pages)

En el año 2015, el gobierno de Chile presentó la medida oficial de pobreza, utilizando datos del 2013, la cual consideraba cuatro dimensiones: Educación, Salud, Trabajo y Seguridad Social, y Vivienda. Luego de valorar esta experiencia y el diagnóstico resultante, Chile asumió el desafío de ampliar la medida multidimensional con la incorporación de indicadores que también son relevantes para el nivel de bienestar de las familias, en particular aquellos relacionados con el entorno en que habitan y las redes sociales de las que disponen los hogares. ¿Cómo enfrentar este desafío?

Author: Ministry of Social Development, Government of Chile

Language: Spanish

Year: 2018

Citation: Ministerio de Desarrollo Social de Chile. (2018). ‘Pobreza multidimensional en Chile: Incorporación de Entorno y Redes’. OPHI Briefing 50, University of Oxford.

Multidimensional Inequality and Human Development

The measurement of inequality from a human development perspective is fundamental. We start this paper by briefly introducing the human development approach and its main conceptual basis: the capability approach. We note that inequality should preferably be assessed in the space of functionings, requiring the assessment methods to use multidimensional techniques. We then present the primary challenges inherent to multidimensional inequality measurement that are related to two types of distributional changes: one is concerned with the dispersions within distributions that are analogous to the unidimensional framework and the other, unlike the unidimensional framework, is concerned with the association between distributions. We next present a succinct review of the most prominent measures proposed in the literature within a unifying framework and review the empirical applications surrounding these measures. We note that while multidimensional inequality measures have a great potential to contribute to the monitoring of human development, there are some challenges to overcome in order to fulfil this potential.

Citation: Seth, S. and Santos, M. E. (2018). ‘Multidimensional inequality and human development’. OPHI Working Paper 114, University of Oxford.

Collective Choice and Social Welfare by Amartya Sen: A Review Essay with Reference to Development in Peru

This paper provides an overview of Sen’s revised edition of Collective Choice and Social Welfare (London: Penguin Books, 2017) and examines the relevance of its arguments in the context of Peru. It focuses on three main points: 1) a social choice approach for addressing global problems; 2) an expanded informational basis for making judgments; and 3) a public reasoning view of collective decision-making. The paper then discusses these points in relation to development policy in Peru. It critically analyses the human-social development strategy followed by the Peruvian government in recent years and, in particular, the capacity of public reasoning to reflect and sustain the priorities of the poorest and marginalized in the public policy agenda.

Citation: Deneulin, S. and Clausen, J. (2018). ‘Collective Choice and Social Welfare by Amartya Sen: a review essay with reference to development in Peru’. OPHI Working Paper 113, University of Oxford.

Incorporating Environmental and Natural Resources within Analyses of Multidimensional Poverty

How can multidimensional poverty measures – that currently encompass social and economic dimensions – be extended to include environmental deprivations that strike the poor simultaneously? And can such extended measures better inform effective and integrated policy responses? Research on joint Environmental and Natural Resources (ENR) and poverty issues is rich, and has contributed to bringing the poverty-environment nexus to the fore. Yet, no widely used multidimensional poverty measure identifies who and how the socio-economically poor people are affected by ENR-issues, at a large enough scale, and in ways that can respond to and inform public policies over the medium term. This paper sets out how such a measure could be built. In particular, it sets out how to include indicators of ENR deprivations into the profile of the joint deprivations people experience. These deprivation profiles could then be used to compute multidimensional measures using the Alkire Foster (AF) methodology, with the difference that these would now encompass a subset of pertinent ENR deprivations. The paper clarifies the ENR data requirements for developing and analysing such a measure empirically.

Citation: Thiry, G., Alkire, S. and Schleicher, J. (2018). ‘Incorporating environmental and natural resources within analyses of multidimensional poverty’. OPHI Research in Progress 50a, University of Oxford.