Category Archives: Publications

The Welfare Effects of India’s Rural Employment Guarantee

We examine the welfare effects of India’s workfare program NREGA using a novel, almost sharp regression discontinuity design. We find large seasonal consumption increases in states implementing the program intensely, which are a multiple of the direct income gains. We also find increases in adolescents’ school attendance. Our results imply substantial general equilibrium effects. We conclude that, when properly implemented, the public employment program holds significant potential for reducing poverty and insuring households against various adverse implications of seasonal income shortfalls.

Citation: Klonner, S. and Oldiges, C. (2019). ‘The welfare effects of India’s Rural Employment Guarantee’, OPHI Working Paper 129, University of Oxford.

Evaluation of Programs with Multiple Objectives: Multidimensional Methods and Empirical Application to Progresa in Mexico

Development programs and policy interventions frequently have multiple simultaneous objectives. Existing quantitative evaluation approaches fail to fully accommodate this multiplicity of objectives. In this paper we adapt the multidimensional poverty measurement approach developed by Alkire and Foster (2011) to the estimation of treatment effects for programs with multiple objectives. We use the potential outcomes framework to show that differences in Alkire-Foster indices between treated and control samples correspond to average treatment effects estimates of outcomes of interest under experimental conditions, and develop further methods of analysis to explore these multidimensional treatment effects. We discuss issues of index design encountered in practice and provide an illustrative example. We apply the methods developed to evaluate the conditional cash transfer program Progresa in Mexico, finding significant multidimensional effects of the program. Further analysis shows that these treatment effects are driven mainly by impacts on school attendance and health visits, objectives that correspond directly to the conditions of the program. There is no evidence for heterogeneity of the treatment effects by the extent to which the beneficiary failed to achieve the objectives at baseline. This study complements the extensive literature on the evaluation of Progresa and other development programs, comprising studies that focus on particular objectives or outcomes of the program. We hope that the methods developed here will find wide application to the evaluation of programs with multiple objectives.

Citation: Vaz, A., Malaeb, B. and Quinn, N.N. (2019). ‘Evaluation of programs with multiple objectives: Multidimensional methods and empirical application to Progresa in Mexico’, OPHI Research in Progress 55a, University of Oxford.

Diverging Identification of the Poor: A Non-random Process. Chile 1992–2017

This paper investigates the degree of association in the identification of the poor between the standard monetary FGT measure and the Alkire-Foster Multidimensional Poverty Index. For this purpose, we use a measure of redundancy between the two poverty measures (R0). In Chile, over the past 25 years, R0 has declined at a rate of 1.5% per year. The decline is unimportant during the 1990s, a decade of rapid economic growth, while it is notable thereafter, in a period characterized by modest economic growth and the progressive introduction and deepening of social policies. The conditional correlation between socioeco­nomic and demographic characteristics with R0 is examined at the province and household levels. After controlling for household non-eligibility across some of the indicators of the Multidimensional Poverty Index, we find that the divergence in the identification of the poor can be explained by improve­ments in education, increasing urbanization, and a reduction in the household size. Consequently, the divergent identification of the poor seems to be a real process, which is not randomly distributed across the population. On the basis of our results, we hypothesize that this divergence is a general phenomenon that tends to occur in countries undergoing demographic transition, urbanization, and progress in educa­tion. If so, and given the fact that poverty alleviation strategies are adopted partly on the basis of poverty statistics, the diverging identification of the poor might have distributive consequences for the poor themselves.

Citation: Klasen, S. and Villalobos, C. (2019). ‘Diverging identification of the poor: A non-random process. Chile 1992–2017’, OPHI Working Paper 128, University of Oxford.

The State of Multidimensional Child Poverty in South Asia: A Contextual and Gendered View

Many poverty measures identify a household as poor or non-poor based on the achievements of all its members. Using the household as the unit of identification has the benefit of enabling a poverty measure to draw on information about persons of different ages and genders, and in different life situations. However, it also loses individual information because this is summarized at the level of the household.  For example, the underlying microdata contain additional information on individual children. As a consequence, gendered and intrahousehold inequalities, for instance, are not evident even when data for them exist. This paper proposes methods to augment a household multidimensional poverty index (MPI) by applying individual-level analyses to the same dataset, and analysing these alongside the matrix of deprivations underlying an MPI. In particular we scrutinise (i) what proportion of deprived children live in multidimensionally poor households; (ii) what proportion of deprived children are girls or boys; and (iii) what proportion of deprived children live in households in which other children are not deprived in that same indicator. We also observe (iv) what other deprivations deprived and poor children experience in addition to the focal deprivation. Finally, we study what proportion of people live in households where children of different ages experience two different child deprivations concurrently. More complex analyses can also be undertaken that combine information on the deprivation status of more than one eligible member, and we illustrate this to identify pioneer children, who completed six years of schooling although adults in their household have not. Overall, this study provides a prototype methodology that can be mainstreamed into subsequent national and global MPI analyses in order to shine a light on child poverty multidimensionally. We illustrate the methodology with analyses of the global MPI for seven countries in South Asia.

Citation: Alkire, S., Ul Haq, R. and Alim, A. (2019). ‘The state of multidimensional child poverty in South Asia: a contextual and gendered view’, OPHI Working Paper 127, University of Oxford.

The Role of Inequality in Poverty Measurement

The adjusted headcount ratio, or MPI, is widely used by countries and international organizations to track multidimensional poverty and coordinate policy. Several characteristics have encouraged its rapid diffusion: applicability to ordinal data, ease of communication, a practical identification of the poor based on multiple deprivations, and a dimensional breakdown that informs and coordinates policy. Sen (1976) and others have argued that poverty should also be sensitive to inequality among the poor. This paper provides a new axiom that embodies this perspective in the multidimensional context and defines an M-gamma family containing a range of measures satisfying the axiom. Like the FGT or P-alpha class of monetary measures, it has three main members: the headcount ratio to evaluate the prevalence of poverty, the adjusted headcount ratio to account for its intensity, and the “squared count” measure that reflects severity and inequality among the poor. We note that any inequality sensitive measure must violate the dimensional breakdown axiom and investigate Shapley decomposition methods as an alternative. Unfortunately, these methods can yield counterintuitive result; however, the squared count measure avoids this critique and its Shapley breakdown reduces to an easy to compute formula that supplements the traditional breakdown for the MPI with information relevant to inequality among the poor. An example from Cameroon illustrates our method of using M-gamma measures in tandem to evaluate multidimen­sional poverty while accounting for inequality and dimensional contributions.

Citation: Alkire, S. and Foster, J. (2019). ‘The role of inequality in poverty measurement’, OPHI Working Paper 126, University of Oxford.

Measuring Autonomy: Evidence from Bangladesh

The search for rigorous, transparent, and domain-specific measures of empowerment that can be used for gendered analysis is ongoing. This paper explores the value-added of a new measure of domain-specific autonomy. This direct measure of motivational autonomy emanates from the ‘self-determination theory’ (Ryan and Deci, 2000). We examine in detail the Relative Autonomy Index (RAI) for individuals, using data representative of Bangladeshi rural areas. Based on descriptive statistical analyses, we conclude that the measure and its scale perform broadly well in terms of conceptual validity and reliability. Based on an exploratory analysis of the determinants of autonomy of men and women in Bangladesh, we find that neither age, education, nor income are suitable proxies for autonomy. This implies that the RAI adds new information about the individuals and is a promising avenue for further empirical exploration as a quantitative yet nuanced measure of domain-specific empowerment.

Citation: Vaz, A., Alkire, S., Quisumbing, A., and Sraboni, E. (2019). ‘Measuring autonomy: Evidence from Bangladesh’, OPHI Working Paper 125, University of Oxford.

Does the Hunger Safety Net Programme Reduce Multidimensional Poverty? Evidence from Kenya

The purpose of this research is to evaluate the short-term impact and long-term sustainability of Kenya’s Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP). Difference-in-difference and propensity score matching estimations are used to determine the impact of programme participation on the household multidimen­sional poverty index (MPI). We found that programme participation reduced the MPI significantly, which is mainly driven by the food insecurity dimension, and that the reduction in poverty is due to the reduction in the incidence and intensity, the latter in particular, of poverty among the ultra-poor households. Our analysis of the political economy of Kenya suggests that, while the government is making progress in the institutionalisation of social protection, weaknesses in the implementation and financing of the programme, as well as the short-term focus of impact evaluation, may undermine the programme’s poten­tial to help build a strong state that is accountable for the eradication of poverty.

Citation: Song, S. and Imai, K.S. (2018). ‘Does the Hunger Safety Net Programme reduce Multidimen­sional poverty? Evidence from Kenya’, OPHI Working Paper 124, University of Oxford.

How to Explain the Measurement of Multidimensional Poverty to the General Public: Workshop for Journalists in Colombia

 OPHI Briefing 52 (in English) (pdf 6 pages)

In 2011, Colombia made an important change to the way in which poverty is measured. Together with a review of the methodology to measure monetary poverty, the government introduced a new methodology for measuring poverty – the Multidimensional Poverty Index for Colombia (MPI-C). This new scenario generated an important challenge: how to explain the existence of two poverty figures (monetary and multidimensional) to people. DANE, the institution in charge of measuring and disclosing poverty figures using the two methodologies, addressed this challenge by training media editors and reporters at a workshop on multi dimensional poverty entitled ‘the unknown dimension’. Silvia Botello from DANE gives an overview of the workshop.

Author: Silvia Botello

Year: 2019

Also available in Spanish.

Citation: Botello, S. (2019). ‘How to Explain the Measurement of Multidimensional Poverty to the General Public: Workshop for Journalists in Colombia’, OPHI Briefing 52 (in English), University of Oxford.

El IPM para alcanzar las metas de reducción de la pobreza

 OPHI Briefing 51 (pdf 6 pages)

En julio de 2016, se emitió en Costa Rica la Directriz Presidencial N°045-MP en que se instó a todos los funcionarios del sector social a utilizar el Índice de Pobreza Multidimensional nacional como una herramienta oficial de medición, de información para asignación de recursos, de seguimiento y evaluación de los programas sociales. Previo al trabajo de cada institución para comenzar a planificar sus presupuestos considerando el IPM-CR, se realizó un ejercicio de simulación del posible impacto que tendría esta labor sobre la reducción de la pobreza multidimensional, cuyos resultados son el interés de este artículo. Este trabajo teórico fue realizado gracias a la alianza público privada entre el Gobierno de Costa Rica y la Asociación Horizonte Positivo, quienes se apoyaron en la firma consultora Cocobolo para el análisis estadístico de los datos.

Author: Andrés Fernández Arauz
Language: Spanish
Year: 2019
Citation: Fernández Arauz, A. (2019). ‘El IPM para alcanzar las metas de reducción de la pobreza’, OPHI Briefing 51, University of Oxford.

Does the Hunger Safety Net Programme Reduce Multidimensional Poverty? Evidence from Kenya

The purpose of this research is to evaluate the short-term impact and long-term sustainability of Kenya’s Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP). Difference-in-difference and propensity score matching estimations are used to determine the impact of programme participation on the household multidimen­sional poverty index (MPI). We found that programme participation reduced the MPI significantly, which is mainly driven by the food insecurity dimension, and that the reduction in poverty is due to the reduction in the incidence and intensity, the latter in particular, of poverty among the ultra-poor households. Our analysis of the political economy of Kenya suggests that, while the government is making progress in the institutionalisation of social protection, weaknesses in the implementation and financing of the programme, as well as the short-term focus of impact evaluation, may undermine the programme’s poten­tial to help build a strong state that is accountable for the eradication of poverty.

Citation: Song, S. and Imai, K.S. (2018). ‘Does the Hunger Safety Net Programme reduce Multidimensional poverty?: Evidence from Kenya’, OPHI Working Paper 124, University of Oxford.

Authors: Sophie Song and Katsushi S. Imai

Publication date: December 2018

JEL Codes: C23, I31, I32, I38, O22

ISBN: 978-19-1229-115-1

Copyright holder: Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative