Towards a Multidimensional Poverty Index for Germany

A new study published in the OPHI working paper series proposes a multidimensional poverty index (MPI) for Germany to reveal the overlapping disadvantages poor people can face across different areas of life.

Nicolai Suppa from the Technical University of Dortmund constructed an MPI using German data from 2001-02, 2006-07 and 2011-12. Based on the Alkire Foster method, his MPI for Germany incorporates six dimensions of poverty:

  • education;
  • housing;
  • health;
  • material deprivation;
  • social participation; and
  • employment.

His analysis of the MPI revealed substantive differences in the prevalence of multidimensional poverty among different groups of the population and in different areas of the country. For example, people living by themselves tended to experience more poverty than those living in a couple, regardless of children in the household. Similarly, people with fathers who had limited education or where their education was unknown were associated with higher multidimensional poverty.

There were also significant differences in the dimensions that contributed most to poverty among different groups of people. For people with a background of migration, the dimensions of material deprivation and housing contributed relatively more to multidimensional poverty, while health contributed less. The relative contributions of deprivations in social participation and health increased with age, while the roles of housing and material deprivation decreased.

The study also looked at changes in multidimensional poverty over time and suggests that the overall increase in multidimensional poverty from 2001/02 to 2006/07 was due to deprivations in employment and material deprivation. Similarly, indicators for education and unemployment played a crucial role in reducing multidimensional poverty during the second half of the decade.

Changes in multidimensional poverty over time varied for different groups of the population. For example, the findings showed that migrants experienced a stronger increase in multidimensional poverty than non-migrants during the first half of the decade and a greater decrease during the second half. This decrease resulted in a reduced poverty gap between migrants and non-migrants by 2011/12. There were also variations in the way poverty changed over time among different age groups.

Overall, using data from 2011/2012, the study found that 8% of people in Germany lived in multidimensional poverty, compared to 5% who were income poor. The author highlights the discrepancy between multidimensional and income poverty measures in showing who is poor, emphasising that the choice of measure can make a difference to targeting poverty-reduction initiatives.

Read the full paper

Towards a Multidimensional Poverty Index for Germany’, by Nicolai Suppa, was published in the OPHI working paper series in September 2015.

Further information

Find out about countries that have launched official national measures of multidimensional poverty.