Category Archives: OPHI Working Papers

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.

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.

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.

Multidimensional Poverty Reduction among Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

This paper focuses on changes in multidimensional poverty as measured by the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (global MPI) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using data for 35 countries, we describe the changes in level, intensity, and composition of multidimensional poverty at the national level. For a subset of countries we discuss results at the subnational level and provide a brief comparison to changes in income poverty. Our findings suggest that 30 countries, home to 92% of the population in our sample, significantly reduced multidimensional poverty as measured by the global MPI for at least one comparison and significantly reduced the share of poor people. Looking within countries, we find different patterns of poverty reduction, with some countries reducing poverty for the poorest regions while poorer regions in other countries do not seem to benefit from the general reduction in poverty to the same extent. When comparing trends in income and multidimensional poverty reduction we find significant differences, indicating that a holistic approach to poverty reduction should look at both multidimensional and income poverty.

Citation: Alkire, S., Jindra, C., Robles-Aguilar, G., and Vaz, A. (2017). ‘Multidimensional poverty reduction among countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.’ OPHI Working Paper 112, University of Oxford.

Human Development, Inequality, and Poverty: Empirical Findings

This paper is devoted to the discussion of empirical findings related to research on the measurement of human development, inequality, and poverty. It is divided into three main sections. In the first of these three sections, we discuss some practical concerns raised about the Human Development Index and how these concerns have been empirically addressed. In the second of these sections, we discuss various empirical studies and findings relating to the level of human development and the level of inequality in human development. Finally, we discuss the empirical research and findings relating to multidimensional poverty.

Citation: Seth, S. and Villar, A. (2017). ‘Human development, inequality, and poverty: Empirical findings’. OPHI Working Paper 111, University of Oxford.

Measuring Human Development and Human Deprivations

This paper is devoted to the discussion of the measurement of human development and poverty, especially in United Nations Development Program’s global Human Development Reports. We first outline the methodological evolution of different indices over the last two decades, focusing on the well-known Human Development Index (HDI) and the poverty indices. We then critically evaluate these measures and discuss possible improvements that could be made.

Citation: Seth, S. and Villar, A. (2017). ‘Measuring human development and human deprivations’. OPHI Working Paper 110, University of Oxford.