Beyond Headcount: Measures that Reflect the Breadth and Components of Child Poverty

This paper presents a new approach to child poverty measurement that reflects the breadth and components of child poverty. The Alkire and Foster method presented in this paper seeks to answer the question ‘who is poor’ by considering the intensity of each child’s poverty. Once children are identified as poor, the measures aggregate information on poor children’s deprivations in a way that can be broken down to see where and how children are poor. The resulting measures go beyond the headcount by taking into account the breadth, depth or severity of dimensions of child poverty.

The paper illustrates one way to apply this method to child poverty measurement, using Bangladeshi data from four rounds of the Demographic Health Survey covering the period 1997–2007. Results for Bangladesh show that the AF adjusted headcount ratio adds value because it produces a different ranking than the simple headcount, because it also reflects the simultaneous deprivations children experience (intensity). Given this, we argue that child poverty should not be assessed only according to the incidence of poverty but also by the intensity of deprivations that batter poor children’s lives at the same time. The Bangladesh example is used to illustrate how to compute and interpret the child poverty figures, how the final measure can be broken down by groups and by dimensions in order to analyse child poverty, how to interpret changes over time, and how to undertake robustness checks concerning the poverty cut-off.

Citation: Alkire, S. and Roche, J.M. (2011). “Beyond Headcount: Measures that Reflect the Breadth and Components of Child Poverty.” OPHI Working Papers 45, University of Oxford.