Global MPI 2019 Frequently Asked Questions

Global MPI 2019 figures and report

  1. What is the global MPI?
  2. When was the global MPI first used?
  3. What is new in the global MPI 2019 compared to 2018?
  4. What are the data sources used in the global MPI 2019?
  5. Is it possible to compare the global MPI 2019 to previous years?
  6. How often will the global MPI be updated?
  7. How is the global MPI aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals?
  8. Why have you selected these 101 countries in 2019?   

Methodology

  1. What does the global MPI measure?
  2. What makes a household ‘multidimensionally poor’?
  3. Why is income not included?
  4. How do I interpret the various values presented with the global MPI results?
  5. What do your figures for ‘population vulnerable to poverty’ and ‘population in severe poverty’ mean?
  6. Is the study of trends in 10 countries part of the global MPI?
  7. How was the global MPI created?
  8. The global MPI is described as a measure of acute poverty. How does this differ from extreme poverty?
  9. Why is this better than the Human Poverty Index (HPI) previously used in the HDR?
  10. Where can I find out more about how to apply the MPI approach?

Income vs MPI

  1. Why are there such wide discrepancies between MPI poverty estimates and $1.90/day poverty estimates in so many countries?
  2. Why is the global MPI headcount (much) higher than national monetary poverty estimates in some countries?
  3. Is the global MPI intended to replace the standard $1.90 a day measure of poverty used for the MDGs and other international purposes?

Policy and international adoption

  1. What are the policy implications?
  2. How is the MPI approach useful at the country level?
  3. Can the indicators be adapted at the country level?
  4. Can the MPI be adopted for national poverty eradication programs?
  5. How does the MPI respond to the effects of shocks?
  6. The global MPI covers more than 100 developing countries. Will an MPI be created for developed nations?

Limitations

  1. What are the main limitations of the global MPI?
  2. Why do you measure multidimensional poverty using these indicators? Why not indicators for empowerment or social exclusion as well?
  3. Why does national data for the global MPI date from so many different years?

Global MPI 2019

What is the global MPI?

The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is an international measure of acute poverty covering over 100 developing countries, which is published annually. It complements traditional income-based poverty measures by capturing the severe deprivations that each person faces at the same time with respect to education, health and living standards. For more details, see here.

When was the global MPI first used?

The first global MPI was developed by OPHI with support from the United Nations Development Programme and introduced in 2010 to replace the Human Poverty Index for the Human Development Report of UNDP. For more details, see here.

What is new in the global MPI 2019 compared to 2018? 

The 2019 global MPI covers 101 countries. Of these, 14 have new updated surveys: Albania, Benin, Congo Republic, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Lao PDR, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Tajikistan. The 2019 update excluded four country surveys that were covered in the 2018 analyses – Azerbaijan, Djibouti, Somalia and Uzbekistan – because the surveys were more than a decade old.

The 2019 global MPI retains the updates made in 2018, which changed five of the ten indicators from the original MPI: nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling, housing and assets to respond to the priorities of the Sustainable Development Goals. For more info, please see the MPI Methodological Note 46 and the Working Paper 121 by Sabina Alkire and Selim Jahan. However in 2019, we have introduced a minor revision to the definition of child mortality. The indicator now considers an age element, that is, whether a child under 18 years has perished in the household in the last five years preceding the interview date. For more info  on the thresholds of each indicator, see the MPI Methodological Note 47.

What are the data sources used in the global MPI 2019?

The 2019 global MPI relies on using 50 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), 42 Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), one DHS-MICS and eight national surveys that provide comparable information to DHS and MICS.

Surveys used for the 2019 MPI computation are from various years, depending on the most recent available data for each country, ranging from 2007 to 2018, although the vast majority of people covered (5.2 of the 5.7 billion, and 1.2 of the 1.3 billion multidimensionally poor people) are captured by surveys fielded in or after 2013. All population aggregates (numbers of people living in multidimensional poverty) which are presented in the data tables and report use 2017 population data from the World Population Prospects (UNDESA, 2017), unless otherwise indicated. Data tables available online also provide the results using population data for the year of the survey.

Is it possible to compare the global MPI 2019 to previous years?

We would caution against using the published numbers for strict comparisons. All MPI estimates published before 2017 refer to the ‘original’ MPI structure, which was updated in 2018 with additional minor revisions in 2019. Comparisons of the global MPI estimates should account for these changes.

How often will the global MPI be updated?

The global MPI is updated once a year to include newly available datasets.

How is the global MPI aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals?

Rather than viewing challenges one by one, in silos, the MPI shows how deprivations related to SDGs 1,2,3,4,6,7, and 11 are interlinked in the lives of poor people. Rather than providing only national headlines, the global MPI is disaggregated by subnational region, area, ethnicity, or age cohort – in order to ‘leave no one behind’. The indicators underlying the global MPI were revised in 2018 to better align with the SDGs.

SDG GOAL 1 OF 17. End Poverty in All Its Forms Everywhere. The preamble to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which defined the SDGs states that “eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions… is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.” The global MPI addresses multidimensional poverty, focusing on the critical dimensions of health, education, and living standards.

SDG TARGET 1.2. Poverty in all its dimensions. The second out of 169 Targets in the SDGs calls for countries to halve the proportion of men, women, and children living in poverty in all its dimensions. Poverty is understood to be both multidimensional and measurable. The official national MPIs developed by countries to reflect their particular context and the global MPI, like national income poverty measures and $1.90/day, both assess progress in poverty reduction: one with respect to national priorities and the other from a comparative perspective.

LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges that “no one will be left behind”. Putting this idea into practice, the global MPI considers the depth or intensity of an individual’s poverty, going beyond the overall number of poor people (headcount ratio) and providing measurement incentives to reduce the deprivations of the poorest – even if they do not yet exit poverty. This promotes policies that “leave no one behind”. Disaggregation of the MPI by region, age, and urban/rural area identifies specific pockets of poverty. This enables more targeted policies and actions, and helps ensure that particular areas and groups are not left behind.

INTERLINKAGES ACROSS SDGS. The global MPI reflects deprivations each person faces in multiple SDG areas – education, water and sanitation, health, housing, etc. Connecting to at least seven SDGs, the MPI brings many concerns together into one headline measure. And, since people are MPI poor if they are deprived in one-third of the weighted indicators, the MPI focuses on people who are being left behind in multiple SDGs at the same time.

Why have you selected these 101 countries in 2019?

The 101 countries in this year’s global MPI are selected on the basis that they all have internationally comparable survey data, they have at least one indicator in both the health and the education dimension, and they are nationally representative.

Methodology

What does the global MPI measure?

The global MPI is composed of three dimensions (health, education, and living standards) and 10 indicators. Each dimension is equally weighted, and each indicator within a dimension is also equally weighted. A person is identified as multidimensionally poor if they are deprived in at least one third of the weighted indicators. The MPI identifies overlapping deprivations at the household level. It shows the incidence of poor people in a population and the intensity of deprivations with which poor households contend. For further details see  Alkire and Santos 2014, and for more about the MPI methodology see the MPI Methodological Notes.

What makes a household or person “multidimensionally” poor?

One deprivation alone may not represent poverty. The MPI requires a household to be deprived in multiple indicators at the same time. A person is multidimensionally poor if he or she is deprived in at least one third of the weighted indicators (see below for definitions of ‘severe’ poverty and ‘vulnerable’ to poverty).

Why is income not included?

We could not include income due to data constraints. Income poverty data come from different surveys, and these surveys often do not have information on health and nutrition. For most countries we are not able to identify whether the same people are income poor and also deprived in all the MPI indicators. There may be additional technical considerations also: the monetary poverty aggregate, to be valid in an MPI, must be a good estimate of that individual household’s monetary poverty over the same time period as the MPI indicators. But monetary poverty is important too. We consider that the MPI and the measure of extreme income poverty – $1.90 / day – complement each other by bringing different aspects into view.

How do I interpret the various values presented with the global MPI results?

The MPI constitutes a family or set of poverty measures. These measures can be unpacked to show the composition of poverty both across countries, regions and the world and within countries by ethnic group, urban/rural location, as well as other key household and community characteristics. This is why OPHI describes the MPI as a high-resolution lens on poverty: it can be used as an analytical tool to identify the most prevailing deprivations. The MPI measures are explained below:

  • Incidence of poverty: the proportion of the population who are poor according to the MPI (those who are deprived in at least one third of the weighted indicators).
  • Average intensity of poverty: the average share of deprivations people experience at the same time.
  • MPI value: The MPI value, which ranges from zero to one, is calculated by multiplying the incidence of poverty by the average intensity of poverty. It shows the proportion of deprivations that a countries’ poor people experience out of the total possible deprivations that would be experienced if every person in the society were poor and deprived in every indicator.

What do your figures for ‘population vulnerable to poverty’ and ‘population in severe poverty’ mean?

Since 2011, two additional categories of multidimensional poverty have been reported in the UNDP’s Human Development Report Tables. These are called the ‘population vulnerable to poverty’ and the ‘population in severe poverty’. The population vulnerable to poverty is defined as the percentage of the population at risk of suffering multiple deprivations—that is, those people with a deprivation score of 20–33 percent. The population in severe poverty, meanwhile, measures the percentage of the population in severe multidimensional poverty—that is those with a deprivation score of 50 percent or more.

Is the study of trends in 10 countries part of the global MPI?

The global MPI each year looks only at a single point in time. In 2019 we have embarked on the first study to analyse changes to the MPI over time for more than 80 countries. Research is ongoing and we have published a preview of results for 10 countries in the global MPI report this year under ‘Leaving no one behind’. For more detail on the results and the methodology for research into ‘Changes over Time’, please see Table 6 and the MPI Methodological Note 47. For a previous project exploring changes over time covering 34 countries using the pre-2018 MPI, see Alkire, Roche and Vaz 2017.

How was the global MPI created?

The MPI was created by Alkire and Santos and other researchers at OPHI, who applied a new technique developed by Sabina Alkire and James Foster to over 100 developing countries. Read more about the Alkire-Foster method for multidimensional measurement here.

The global MPI is described as a measure of acute poverty. How does this differ from extreme poverty?

We have described the MPI as a measure of ‘acute’ poverty to avoid confusion with the World Bank’s measure of ‘extreme’ poverty that captures those living on less than $1.90 a day. The MPI reflects the severe deprivations that people face at the same time. Because it was designed to compare acute poverty across developing nations, it is most relevant to less developed countries.

Why is this better than the Human Poverty Index (HPI) previously used in the Human Development Report (HDR)?

The MPI replaced the HPI, which appeared in the HDR from 1997-2009. Pioneering in its day, the HPI used country averages to reflect aggregate deprivations in health, education, and standards of living. It could not identify which specific individuals, households or larger groups of people were poor. The global MPI addresses this shortcoming by identifying each person as poor or non-poor based on how many deprivations they face, then aggregates this information into an overall set of intuitive statistics such as the percentage of people who are MPI poor. The MPI can be broken down by indicator to show how the composition of multidimensional poverty differs across regions, ethnic groups and so on—with useful implications for policy.

Where can I find out more about how to apply the MPI approach?

Background materials that provide the technical guidance needed to apply and adapt the MPI approach, including video guides, are available from OPHI’s Online Training Portal. See also ‘How to Apply the Alkire Foster Method‘ – 12 Steps to a Multidimensional Poverty Measure. Our website also advertises periodic short courses on multidimensional poverty – see OPHI Short Courses.

Income vs MPI

Why are there such wide discrepancies between MPI poverty estimates and $1.90/day poverty estimates in so many countries?

The MPI complements monetary poverty measures. It measures various deprivations directly. In practice, although there is a clear overall relationship between MPI and $1.90/day poverty, the estimates do differ for many countries. This is a topic for further research, but some possible explanations can include infrastructure, for instance through public services, to convert income into outcomes such as good nutrition. For more information, see materials from the workshop ‘Dynamic Comparison between Multidimensional Poverty and Monetary Poverty‘.

Why is the global MPI headcount (much) higher than national monetary poverty estimates in some countries?

The MPI, like the $1.90/day line, is a globally comparable measure of poverty. It measures acute multidimensional poverty, and only includes indicators that are available for many countries. National poverty measures are typically monetary measures, and thus capture something different. The fact that there are differences does not mean that the national monetary poverty number, or the MPI headcount is wrong – these simply measure different conceptions of poverty. At the same time, just as national poverty measures, in contrast, are designed to reflect the national situation more accurately and often differ in very useful ways from the $1.90 measure, some countries may wish to build a national multidimensional poverty index that is tailored to their context, to complement the global MPI (see here and the MPPN website for details of countries who are doing this).

Is the global MPI intended to replace the standard $1.90 a day measure of poverty used for the SDGs and other international purposes?

No. The global MPI is intended to complement monetary measures of poverty, including $1.90 a day estimates. The relationship between these measures, as well as their policy implications and methodological improvement, are priorities for further research.

Policies and international adoption

What are the policy implications?

The MPI methodology shows aspects in which the poor are deprived and helps to reveal the interconnections among those deprivations. This enables policymakers to target resources and design policies more effectively. This is especially useful where the MPI reveals areas or groups characterized by severe deprivation. Examples where this has been done in practice already include Mexico’s poverty targeting programme and Colombia’s poverty reduction strategy, tied to their nationally adapted MPIs.

How is the MPI approach useful at the country level?

The multidimensional poverty approach is often adapted. Countries select the indicators and weights that make sense in their context to create tailored national poverty measures. National MPIs can be useful as poverty measures that reflect local priorities and data sources. In 2009, Mexico became the first country to adopt a multidimensional poverty measure reflecting multiple deprivations on the household level. In 2011, Colombia introduced the first poverty reduction plan to use an adaptation of OPHI’s measure. Colombia’s binding ‘multidimensional’ poverty-reduction targets are tied to its official national Multidimensional Poverty Index Colombia (MPI-Colombia) which assesses broader social and health-related aspects of poverty: education, employment, the condition of children and young people, health, access to public services and housing conditions. The governments of Bhutan, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, and Pakistan have also released official multidimensional poverty indices.

The global MPI was devised as an analytical tool to compare acute poverty across nations, which national MPIs cannot do. However, national MPIs made by national statistics offices, and matching national plans and priorities, are also useful policy tools.

Can the indicators be adapted at the country level?

Yes. The global MPI indicators were data constrained. National MPIs should use the indicators and weights that make sense for that country. The multidimensional poverty approach to assessing deprivations at the household level can be tailored using country-specific data and indicators to provide a richer picture of poverty at the country level.

Can the MPI be adopted for national poverty eradication programmes?

Yes. The MPI methodology can and should be modified to generate national multidimensional poverty measures that reflect local cultural, economic, political, climatic and other factors. The MPI will immediately reflect changes in any of its indicators, such as school attendance, so can be used to monitor progress.

Colombia is a powerful example of how the MPI can be used to coordinate national poverty eradication programmes. Costa Rica shows how it is used for budgeting; Bhutan for targeting and so on.

How does the MPI respond to the effects of shocks?

The effects of shocks are difficult to capture in any poverty measure. Because the standard survey data used to estimate the global measure are collected only every three years, the ability to detect changes is limited by the available data. The MPI will reflect the impacts of shocks as far as these cause children to leave primary education or to become malnourished, for example. If more frequent data are available at the country or local level, this can be used to seek to capture the effects of larger scale economic and other shocks.

The global MPI covers more than 100 developing countries. Will an MPI be created for developed nations?

This is still under investigation: the constraint is not the methodology, which can be easily extended to reflect different faces of poverty, but rather the data. There are no publicly available comparable data across high-income countries. The list of the 101 countries that global MPI 2019 estimates for and country-specific summaries are available on the MPI country briefings page and through the MPI data tables page. Here is Nicolai Suppa’s article exploring the use of MPI for a developed country such as Germany.

Limitations

What are the main limitations of the global MPI?

The MPI has some drawbacks, due mainly to data constraints. First, the indicators include both outputs (such as years of schooling) and inputs (such as cooking fuel) as well as one stock indicator (child mortality, which could reflect a death that was five years ago), because flow data are not available for all dimensions. Second, the health data are relatively weak and overlook some groups’ deprivations especially for nutrition, though the patterns that emerge are plausible and familiar. Third, in some cases careful judgments are needed to address missing data. But to be considered multidimensionally poor, households must be deprived in at least six standard of living indicators or in three standard of living indicators and one health or education indicator. This requirement makes the MPI less sensitive to minor inaccuracies. Fourth, as is well known, intra-household inequalities may be severe, but these could not be reflected in the MPI. Instead we recommend separate analyses linked to the MPI that uncover gendered and intrahousehold patterns, for example of children. Fifth, while the MPI goes well beyond a headcount to include the intensity of poverty experienced, it does not measure inequality among the poor. Rather, OPHI reports a separate statistic showing individual and group-based inequalities. Finally, the estimates presented here are based on publicly available data and cover various years between 2007 and 2018, which limits direct cross-country comparability.

Why do you measure multidimensional poverty using these indicators? Why not indicators for empowerment or social exclusion as well?

To create the global MPI an initial list of dimensions and indicators was prepared following a long process of deliberations, which included consultations with experts and an open consultation. This list was then compared against available data for most countries included in the study, and we found that there were some data constraints. To build a meaningful index we are limited to data readily available in most surveys. For instance, the DHS surveys collect data on women’s empowerment for some countries, but not every DHS survey includes empowerment, and the other surveys do not have these data. Data on men’s empowerment or political freedom are missing.

Why does national data for the MPI date from so many different years? Is it unfair to compare countries if the statistics in one case are five years older than in another?

The 2019 MPI relies on the most recent and reliable data available since 2007. As in the case of all poverty measures including income and social statistics, surveys are taken in different years, and some countries do not have recent data. In order to facilitate clear analysis, the year of the survey is reported in the MPI tables. The difference in dates limits direct cross country comparisons, as circumstances may have improved, or deteriorated, in the intervening years. Naturally, this is a stimulus for country governments to collect up-to-date surveys that reflect recent progress. The SDGs’ focus on data should, we hope, give rise to more frequent data for MPI estimations.