Category Archives: Publications

Leaving No Country Behind in Human Development: A Fuzzy Approach

‘Leaving no one behind’ (LNOB) constitutes one of the core principles underpinning the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this paper, we propose a fuzzy logic approach to identify countries left behind in each dimension of human development and to estimate the extent to which certain countries are left behind in terms of overall human development. Following the current analytical framework for measuring the Human Development Index (HDI), we illustrate our proposal by measuring the degree to which a country was left behind in the years 2000 and 2018. In general, we find that the countries left furthest behind at the beginning of the century were those that most reduced gaps with respect to better performing countries. Nevertheless, we cannot clearly speak of convergence in HDI as there are notable exceptions, such as the Central African Republic, Liberia, Yemen, Haiti, and Venezuela, which despite the improvement in their HDI between 2000 and 2018, worryingly increased their gaps in human development relative to the rest of the world. The illustration highlights the significant advantages of measuring cross-county human development using our fuzzy-based LNOB approach to provide new complementary measures consistent with the United Nations’ moral imperative of leaving no country behind.

Citation: García-Pardo, F., Pérez-Moreno, S.  and Bárcena-Martín, E. (2021). ‘Leaving no country behind in human development: A fuzzy approach’, OPHI Working Paper 136, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

Multidimensional Poverty and COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: Recent Trends and the Route Ahead

OPHI Briefing 57 (PDF)

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has altered people’s lives in a multifaceted way. It is now clear that the progress in poverty reduction is also at stake. This briefing analyses the most recent and up-to-date trends in multidimensional poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) prior to the pandemic, which is essential for understanding both the progress made in the past and for use as a benchmark for the future.

The briefing first presents the levels of multidimensional poverty in LAC according to the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 2020.

Erratum: The source for Table A1 in the Appendix is erroneously stated as ‘Alkire, Nogales, Quinn, and Suppa (2020)’ in the briefing. The correct source information for this table should read ‘Alkire, Kanagaratnam and Suppa (2020).

Download OPHI Briefing 57.

Authors: Hector Moreno and Mónica Pinilla-Roncancio
Year: 2021

Citation: Moreno, H. and Pinilla-Roncancio, M. (2021). ‘Multidimensional Poverty and COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: Recent Trends and the Route Ahead’, OPHI Briefing 57, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

Global multidimensional poverty and COVID-19: A decade of progress at risk?

According to the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), an internationally comparable measure, poverty in developing countries has fallen substantially over the last 15 years. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic contraction are negatively impacting multiple dimensions of poverty and jeopardising this progress. This paper uses quantitative assessments of increases in food insecurity and out of school children made by UN agencies to inform microsimulations of potential impacts of the pandemic under six alternative scenarios. These simulations use the nationally representative datasets underlying the 2020 update of the global MPI. Because these datasets were collected between one and 12 years pre-pandemic, we develop models to translate the simulated impacts to 2020 while accounting for underlying poverty reduction trends and country-specific factors. Aggregating results across 70 countries that account for 89% of the global poor according to the 2020 global MPI, we find that the potential setback to multidimensional poverty reduction is between 3.6 and 9.9 years under the alternative scenarios.

An earlier version of this work was circulated as part of “On track or not? Projecting the global Multidimensional Poverty Index”, OPHI Research in Progress 58a.

Citation: Alkire, S., Nogales, R., Quinn, N. N. and Suppa, N. (2021). ‘Global multidimensional poverty and COVID-19: A decade of progress at risk?’, OPHI Research in Progress 61a, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, University of Oxford.

Endogenous Weights and Multidimensional Poverty: A Cautionary Tale

Composite measures such as multidimensional poverty indices depend crucially on the weights assigned to the different dimensions and their indicators. A recent strand of the literature uses endogenous weights, determined by the data at hand, to compute poverty scores. Notwithstanding their merits, we demonstrate both analytically and empirically how a broad class of endogenous weights violates key properties of multidimensional poverty indices such as monotonicity and subgroup consistency. Without these properties, anti-poverty policy targeting and assessments are bound to be seriously compromised. Using real-life data from Ecuador and Uganda, we show that these violations are widespread. Hence, one should be extremely careful when using endogenous weights in measuring poverty. Our results naturally extend to other welfare measures based on binary indicators, such as the widely studied asset indices.

Citation: Dutta, I., Nogales, R. and Yalonetzky, G. (2021): ‘Endogenous weights and multidimensional poverty: A cautionary tale’, OPHI Working Paper 135, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

An advanced version of this paper is published in the Journal of Development Economics; available online from 17 February 2021.

A Birdseye View of Well-being: Exploring a Multidimensional Measure for the United Kingdom

This paper explores a new approach to capturing well-being and human development in a single, joint multidimensional index that is at once intuitive, rigorous and policy salient. Based on Amartya Sen’s capability approach and the Alkire-Foster method as adapted in Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index, the paper presents a new exploratory Multidimensional Well-being Index (MWI) for the United Kingdom. The aim of the paper is twofold: inform the debate on the measurement of well-being, and of human development more generally, and illustrate the added value of a single rigorous metric in the form of an index, as a complementary headline measure to GDP. The MWI presented here follows a subset of the domains and indicators from the official national well-being dashboard for the UK and is constructed from a single wave of Understanding Society (Wave 9) data. Findings are presented at the national level and decomposed by population subgroups and regions to reveal inequalities in well-being across the population. The indicators are data constrained so we recommend the results be interpreted as illustrating a methodology that could be insightful for policy if appropriate indicators were agreed by due process. Results show that 44% the population enjoys satisfactory levels of well-being, but this varies greatly. For instance, across ethnic groups, 53% of white people enjoy favourable well-being, but only 35% of other ethnic groups, and only 27% of people who self-identify as Black African/Caribbean or Black British. Many people report lacking a balanced diet and minimum physical exercise, as well as feeling unhappy, anxious and not feeling satisfied with income or leisure time, that highlights the need for policy focus on these areas if well-being is to be raised and maintained for all.

Citation: Alkire, S. and Kovesdi, F. (2020). ‘A birdseye view of well-being: Exploring a multidimensional measure for the United Kingdom’, OPHI Research in Progress 60a, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

Moderate Multidimensional Poverty Index: Paving the Way out of Poverty

This paper introduces a trial Moderate Multidimensional Poverty Index (MMPI) that provides a meaningful superset of existing global multidimensional poverty indices. Eradicating poverty in all its forms everywhere requires indicators that measure sustainable pathways out of poverty, not only the absence of extreme deprivation. The MMPI increases the deprivation cutoff of nine of the ten indicators of the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (gMPI) to reflect moderate rather than acute levels of multidimensional poverty, in line with the ambitions outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The MMPI is constructed as a superset to the global MPI maintaining the three dimensions of health, education and living standards, but adjusting nine of the indicators to reflect a meaningful change in the level of ambition. The trial MMPI is data-constrained, but provides a methodology and discusses potential indicators for an MMPI that would: i) be globally comparable across countries at all income levels, ii) align the indicators with the higher standards for development as defined in the Agenda 2030, and iii) allow us to study some aspects of intrahousehold deprivation. The trial MMPI is illustrated empirically using nationally representative household surveys from Thailand, Iraq, Tanzania, Serbia, Guatemala, and Bangladesh. The empirical results in the six countries show the added value of having three layered measures of destitution, acute poverty, and moderate poverty. The MMPI aligns reasonably well with the established monetary poverty levels in lower middle-income countries ($3.2 / day) and in upper middle-income countries ($5.5/day), yet with some informative differences. The results demonstrate that the MMPI is feasible, has desirable properties as a global poverty index, and allows to unearth thus far hidden aspects in poverty measurement, such as intrahousehold deprivations in education. Still, challenges remain in terms of data availability for certain indicators and a study across additional countries is required before an MMPI structure can be finalized.

Citation: Alkire, S., Kovesdi, F., Scheja, E. and Vollmer, F. (2020). ‘Moderate Multidimensional Poverty Index: Paving the way out of poverty’, OPHI Research in Progress 59a, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index 2012

Women play a critical and potentially transformative role in agricultural growth in developing countries, but they face persistent obstacles and economic constraints limiting further inclusion in agriculture.

The WEAI measures the empowerment, agency, and inclusion of women in the agriculture sector in an effort to identify ways to overcome those obstacles and constraints. The Index is a significant innovation in its field and aims to increase understanding of the connections between women’s empowerment, food security, and agricultural growth.

The WEAI is a composite measurement tool that indicates women’s control over critical parts of their lives in the household, community, and economy. It allows us to identify women who are disempowered and understand how to increase autonomy and decision-making in key domains. It is also a useful tool for tracking progress toward gender equality, which is one of the Millennium Development Goals.

OPHI collaborated with USAID and the IFPRI to develop the innovative index.

Download the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index 2012 brochure.

Measuring Progress Toward Empowerment – Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index: Baseline Report

The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) is a ground-breaking tool to measure the empowerment, agency and inclusion of women in the agriculture sector.

Launched in March 2012 by OPHI with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the WEAI tracks women’s engagement in agriculture in five areas: production, resources, income, leadership, and time use. Unlike any other tool, it also measures women’s empowerment relative to men within their households, providing a more robust understanding of gender dynamics within households and communities.

Read more about WEAI
Download the WEAIL Baseline Report 2014

Multidimensional Poverty and COVID-19 Risk Factors: A Rapid Overview of Interlinked Deprivations across 5.8 Billion People

OPHI Briefing 53a (PDF, 12 pages)

Multidimensional poverty data and measurement are key allies in confronting the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Formulating an effective response to this global crisis requires an understanding of the overlapping deprivations faced by people around the world, deprivations that can result in increased vulnerability to COVID-19. The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) provides clear, immediate evidence of these interlinked deprivations, making interventions more effective, high impact, and durable.

This briefing uses data from the global MPI database for 2020 and covers 103 countries and 5.8 billion people to show at a glance critical facts for the COVID-19 response.

Download OPHI Briefing 53a

Authors: Sabina Alkire, Jakob Dirksen, Ricardo Nogales and Christian Oldiges
Year: 2020

Citation: Alkire, S., Dirksen, J., Nogales, R. and Oldiges, C. (2020). ‘Multidimensional poverty and COVID-19 risk factors: A rapid overview of interlinked deprivations across 5.8 billion people’, OPHI Briefing 53a, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

Multidimensional Poverty and Vulnerability to COVID-19: A Rapid Overview of Disaggregated and Interlinked Vulnerabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa

OPHI Briefing 54a (PDF, 16 pages)

This Briefing presents a 2020 global MPI update to the 2019 global MPI analyses and results presented in: OPHI Briefing 54, ‘Multidimensional Poverty and Vulnerability to COVID-19: A Rapid Overview of Disaggregated and Interlinked Vulnerabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa’, OPHI, 2020. 

Included are updated data and results for nine coun­tries, which cover over 35% of both the population and poor persons in the region.

The briefing provides evidence on the situation across 479 subnational regions and 40 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. It maps some simultaneous deprivations that people are already facing so that policy actors can adjust their COVID-19 responses based on differing levels of vulnerability. Maps on the OPHI website cover each of the 479 regions in greater depth.

Download OPHI Briefing 54a

Authors: Sabina Alkire, Jakob Dirksen, Ricardo Nogales and Christian Oldiges
Year: 2020
Citation: Alkire, S., Dirksen, J., Nogales, R. and Oldiges, C. (2020). ‘Multidimensional poverty and vulnerability to COVID-19: A rapid overview of disaggregated and interlinked vulnerabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa’, OPHI Briefing 54a, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, University of Oxford.