Multidimensional measures in the Sustainable Development Goals

Poverty is multidimensional. Poor people can experience many different forms of deprivation at the same time – such as poor health, a lack of education, insecurity or low living standards – which are not always concurrent with a lack of money.

That is why it the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicitly include a target on reducing multidimensional poverty. In particular, target 1.2 refers to reducing by half the proportion of women, men and children living in poverty in all its dimensions, according to national definitions, by 2030.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is a measure that helps to monitor progress towards the most challenging Goal. The MPI addresses poverty in multiple forms and dimensions and explores how these deprivations are interlinked and overlapping. Many countries are reporting their national MPIs or the global MPI to show progress towards this goal. In addition, the MPI can support the 2030 Agenda by providing a comprehensive and multi-sectoral picture that can guide interventions for leaving no one behind.

How does the MPI support the SDG agenda?

Many countries are using the MPI to measure progress towards the first SDG. Why? Here are some reasons.

  • Leave No One Behind: MPI analysis tracks progress on poverty for different groups. Existing MPI data allows us to see poverty by, for example sub-national regions, by rural and urban areas, and by groups such as children, ethnic groups and caste.
  • Monitor Progress: the MPIs used to track and compare multidimensional poverty over time. National MPIs are used to compare regions and groups within a country; a regional or global MPI can also compare countries.
  • Integrated, coordinated policy: Whether in China or Colombia the MPI is used by senior policy makers to coordinate policy and to understand and track the impact of their policies on the poor, helping to break down silos and intensify policy impact.
  • Universal relevance: National and regional MPIs are tailored to the context and policy priorities. They address moderate or acute poverty and reflect contextual values and definitions.

The MPI illuminates for policy makers who is poor, how they are poor and how intensely they suffer poverty. Such detailed analysis will help to achieve a crucial aspiration for the global drive to end poverty: ensuring no one is left behind.

The MPI is based on OPHI’s Alkire-Foster method for multidimensional measurement.

Universal yet responsive to national complexities

The MPI is both universal and responsive to each country’s national complexities.

A universal or global MPI is internationally comparable and can incorporate agreed dimensions of poverty – economic, social or environmental – based on participatory and expert inputs. It can define at least two degrees of multidimensional poverty, such as ‘acute’ or ‘moderate’, to have relevance across countries with different kinds of poverty.

Governments or civil society organisations can also create their own MPIs that incorporate the dimensions of poverty relevant to their own national context and goals.

By pinpointing exactly how and where people are poor, a national MPI enables governments to better target their resources and combat poverty more effectively. As the MPI shows how different deprivations overlap and interconnect, policy initiatives can also be integrated to tackle multiple aspects of poverty together. And by revealing which groups or regions are experiencing poverty most acutely, the MPI can help focus on the most vulnerable, ensuring that no one is left behind.

The MPI has been used for many to energise policies to fight poverty in many dimensions because it:

  • Measures acute or moderate poverty in multiple dimensions
  • Provides a clear, informative poverty headline
  • Tracks change in poverty
  • Tracks change in each of its dimensions separately
  • Enables policy coordination across sectors
  • Can be disaggregated by groups and indicators, to show success in leaving no one behind
  • May be mapped to environmental conditions
  • Compares non-monetary deprivations directly, independent of prices, inflation, or currency
What do we report?

Many countries are reporting the incidence of multidimensional poverty associated with their global and/or national MPI for SDG indicator 1.2.2. These countries include Bangladesh, Belize, Bhutan, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Mexico, Nepal, Panama, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, and Vietnam. The incidence (also called the poverty rate, or the headcount ratio of multidimensional poverty) is the number of poor people divided by the total number of people in the population.

The global Multidimensional Poverty Index

The global MPI is a vital tool for tracking the success of the SDGs. It is an internationally comparable measure of acute multidimensional poverty that is computed for over 100 developing countries around the world. It was first launched by OPHI and UNDP in 2010 and has been updated at least annually since.

The global MPI captures the different types of disadvantage that each poor person experiences at the same time in 10 indicators across three dimensions – education, health and living standards. A person is identified as poor if she is deprived in a third or more of the weighted indicators.

As well as providing a headline measure of multidimensional poverty within a population, the global MPI can be broken down to reveal:

  • How people are poor (which deprivations strike people at the same time)
  • Where the poorest people live – by region or social group
  • The intensity of the deprivations experienced by those living in poverty.
National MPIs

Several countries in the world have adopted official national multidimensional poverty measures – incorporating dimensions of poverty that are relevant to their countries – enabling them to design effective poverty-reduction programmes. Many other countries are now lining up to fight poverty nationally, using multidimensional poverty measures as a tool to align management and policy.

The Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN), coordinated by OPHI, is a South-South initiative created in response to the overwhelming demand from policymakers for information and support on implementing multidimensional poverty measures nationally as well as globally.

OPHI and the MPPN have created Post-2015 Light Powerful Survey Modules designed to capture data needed to measure human poverty more accurately. It touches on 30 targets in 12 of the SDGs. The modules help provide better information on indicators such as water, sanitation, assets, electricity, housing, child mortality, and school attendance. They also help provide the necessary data for more innovative indicators like violence, empowerment or informal work.

 How are countries using the MPI?

Across the globe — from Mexico to Pakistan, Senegal to Bhutan, Costa Rica to the Philippines — countries are using the MPI as a powerful tool to energise interventions that stop poverty. The MPI is a tool because it doesn’t only have a headline figure. The MPI also breaks down to give detailed consistent information on the level, trends and indicator-by-indicator composition of poverty for different regions and for marginalised groups. It is information-rich, yet easy to communicate.

Countries at present are learning from each other and innovating themselves. Colombia’s President Santos championed a policy round-table with key ministers so that joined-up coordi­nated policies can meet ambitious poverty reduction targets. Costa Rica’s President Solis and Vice President Chacon used the MPI to weed out duplication, tighten budget allocation, and spend more where help is most needed. Mexico’s President Peña Nieto targeted the extreme multidimensionally poor people through the National Strategy for Inclusion. Under President Xi, China has accurately targeted 70 million people and is fighting to end poverty via proactive and high-profile integrated household and community programming by 2020.

In Pakistan, which has recently launched its official national MPI, policy makers have recognised that income inequality is just one aspect of inequality in the country. The MPI enables the government to better tackle gender, regional and digital divides within the country.

How can OPHI help countries measure progress towards SDG-1?

OPHI and the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network provide technical and policy support to countries through the whole process of introducing and using multidimensional measures. For more information please contact us.

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