OPHI research reveals significant changes in multidimensional poverty over time

Multidimensional poverty levels have significantly decreased in recent years, a new study from the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) suggests.

The researchers analysed figures from the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), an internationally comparable measure of acute poverty in over 100 developing countries that reflects the overlapping disadvantages poor people can face across different areas of their lives.

Their analysis focused on 34 countries, covering 2.5 billion people or 37% of the world’s population, where comparable data is available across time.  Data ranges from 1998/9 to 2012, and the time period for each country ranges between 2 and 12 years depending on the frequency of data collection.

The findings revealed that 31 out of the 34 countries analysed significantly reduced multidimensional poverty over two or three time periods. Nepal, Rwanda, Ghana, and Tanzania were the best performers in reducing MPI overall, while Armenia, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia saw the fastest poverty reductions in relative terms. 28 of the 34 countries analysed also reduced extreme poverty – destitution.

The researchers looked at changes in both the incidence of poverty and the intensity of poverty that poor people experience. They found that most countries reduced poverty relatively through a decrease in incidence – the percentage of people who are multidimensionally poor. In Ethiopia and Niger, however, the MPI was mainly reduced by a decrease in the intensity of deprivation among the poor.

The results showed significant changes in all of the ten poverty indicators that make up the Global MPI. Deprivation in nutrition reduced the most in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America & the Caribbean, while education indicators reduced most in South Asia.

The researchers also looked at changes in poverty in 338 regions within 31 of the countries analysed, as well as among ethnic groups in 3 countries. In total, 208 regions, representing 78% of the sample, showed a statistically significant reduction in MPI. In 9 out of the 31 countries, the poorest region experienced the fasted reduction.

Among ethnic groups, poverty reduced more slowly in Benin, leading to an increase in inequality among the poor. In Ghana, poverty among ethnic groups reduced at a similar rate, while Kenya’s MPI reduction greatly decreased disparities between ethnic groups.

In addition, the study revealed that the relationships between the pace of multidimensional poverty reduction and the decrease in the number of people living on less than £1.25 a day were variable, suggesting that both multidimensional and monetary poverty measures merit separate analysis.

Download the full paper

‘Changes over time in multidimensional poverty: Methodology and results for 34 Countries’, by Sabina Alkire, José Manuel Roche and Ana Vaz, was published in the OPHI working paper series in July 2015.

Further information

Find out more about the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index and findings from the 2015 annual updates.