What is multidimensional poverty?
Most countries of the world define poverty as a lack of money. Yet poor people themselves consider their experience of poverty much more broadly. A person who is poor can suffer from multiple disadvantages at the same time – for example they may have poor health or malnutrition, a lack of clean water or electricity, poor quality of work or little schooling. Focusing on one factor alone, such as income, is not enough to capture the true reality of poverty.
Multidimensional poverty measures can be used to create a more comprehensive picture. They reveal who is poor and how they are poor – the range of different disadvantages they experience. As well as providing a headline measure of poverty, multidimensional measures can be broken down to reveal the poverty level in different areas of a country, and among different sub-groups of people.
Watch a video produced by UNDP El Salvador and OPHI exploring what poverty means, from the perspective of those who are experiencing it:
Poverty in El Salvador from the perspective of the protagonists
OPHI’s research on multidimensional poverty
OPHI has developed a methodology for measuring multidimensional poverty known as the Alkire-Foster (AF) method.
OPHI researchers apply the AF method and related multidimensional measures to a range of different countries and contexts. Their analyses span a number of different topics, such as changes in multidimensional poverty over time, comparisons in rural and urban poverty, and inequality among the poor. For more information on OPHI’s research, see our Working Paper Series and Policy Briefings.
OPHI also calculates the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which has been published since 2010 in the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report. The Global MPI is an internationally-comparable measure of acute poverty covering more than 100 developing countries. It is updated by OPHI twice a year and constructed using the AF method.
Find out more
Multidimensional Poverty Measurement and Analysis: The Book
Multidimensional poverty measurement and analysis is evolving rapidly. Quite recently, a particular counting approach to multidimensional poverty measurement, developed by Sabina Alkire and James Foster, has created considerable interest. Notably, it has informed the publication of the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) estimates in the Human Development Reports of the United Nations Development Programme since 2010, and the release of national poverty measures in Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Bhutan and the Philippines. The academic response has been similarly swift, with related articles published in both theoretical and applied journals.
The high and insistent demand for in-depth and precise accounts of multidimensional poverty measurement motivates this book, which is aimed at graduate students in quantitative social sciences, researchers of poverty measurement, and technical staff in governments and international agencies who create multidimensional poverty measures.
Watch a short video about OPHI’s work on multidimensional poverty and the MPI:
Find out about other ways the AF method is used in research and policy.