Link to Facebook PageLink to RSS Feed Link to Twitter


World leaders show how integrated policies to fight poverty need multidimensional measures

High level side-event at the UN summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda

Anchoring a Global Multidimensional Poverty Index within the SDGs

New York, 27 September 2015

During the United Nations summit to agree a historic new global development agenda, twenty eminent speakers stressed the importance of adopting a multidimensional approach to measuring and eradicating poverty at the national and global levels.

The event celebrated the sea-change embodied within the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which recognises that ‘eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions’ as ‘the greatest global challenge’. The 20 speakers shared with passion and commitment their work to address poverty, using Multidimensional Poverty Indices (MPIs) that catalyse integrated policies and disaggregated data to leave no one behind.

Many calls were also made for an internationally comparable Global MPI to be a tier 1 indicator within the SDGs and for National MPIs, that measure poverty according to national definitions, to be aspirational indicators for Target 1.2.  Speakers shared how multidimensional poverty metrics can help to fight poverty in all its forms and dimensions, how they can be disaggregated to help leave no one behind, and help catalyse integrated policies that address interlinked deprivations together – key principles of the SDGs.

The distinguished speakers, including Heads of State, Ministers of Planning and Ministers of Social Development, Finance and Foreign Affairs, are at the forefront of practical efforts to reduce all forms of poverty. The measures they use inform their efforts to improve lives of poor people. In their observations they showed how multidimensional poverty measures can complement monetary poverty measures.

Watch a video of the event:

The eminent leaders addressing the 200-strong audience included:

  • E. Mr. Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, President of Costa Rica
  • E. Mr. Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan
  • E. Mr. Juan Orlando Hernández, President of Honduras
  • E. Mr. Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia
  • E. Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations

Their contributions stressed the importance of putting poor people at the heart of the sustainable development agenda via multidimensional approaches to measuring and eradicating poverty.

The other speakers sharing important contributions on multidimensional poverty included:

  • The Philippines: H.E. Dr. Arsenio Balisacan, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary of the Philippines
  • Colombia:E. Tatyana Orozco de la Cruz, Director of the Department for Social Prosperity of Colombia
  • South Africa: H.E. Jeff Radebe, Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, South Africa
  • Chile: H.E. Marcos Barraza Gómez, Minister of Social Development of Chile
  • Viet Nam: H.E. Mr. Dang Huy Dong, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment of Viet Nam
  • Ecuador:E. Cecilia Vaca Jones, Minister Coordinator of Social Development of Ecuador
  • Islamic Development Bank: Dr. Savas Alpay, Chief Economist of the Islamic Development Bank
  • Georgia:E. Mr Mikheil Janelidze, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia
  • Senegal: H.E. Amadou Ba, Minister of Economy and Finance, Senegal
  • League of Arab States and Tarek Nabil El Nabulsi, Director of Development and Social Policies Department, League of Arab States
  • UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia: Khalid Abu-Ismail, Chief Economic Policy Section, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
  • Germany: Dr. Ingolf Dietrich, Deputy Director-General, Head of the Special Unit of Post-2015 Agenda, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany
  • Panama: H.E. Mrs. María Luisa Navarro, Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of Panama
  • United States: Mr. Noam Unger, Deputy Assistant for Policy, Planning and Learning, USAID of the United States
  • Mexico: Gabriel Rivera Conde, Chief Strategic Projects, Office of the President of Mexico

The discussion was fast-paced, focused and substantive. President Solis of Costa Rica called for a poverty narrative that inspires commitment and action – by government, but also by civil society and the private sector. Prime Minister Tobgay of Bhutan shared how multidimensional poverty and well-being measures create an insightful measurement framework for multi-level policy and programme design. Presidetn Hernandez of Honduras shared a compelling example of a campesino farmer whose life is trapped in a battery of interlocking deprivations, but also observed how the Global MPI enables Honduras to be compared on the world stage to countries in Asia and the Arab world. Prime Minister Anthony of St Lucia brought in Bob Marley to call for attention to the hidden, forgotten, and isolated people and the links between poverty and environmental degradation.

In the Ministerial Discussion, Arsenio Balisacan (Philippines) shared how their multidimensional poverty measures – which are incorporated in their national development plan – better reflected the impact of economic growth, while Tayana Orozco (Colombia) shared a distilled and compact overview of Colombia’s many-layered innovative policy uses of the MPI. Jeff Radebe (South Africa), stressed how measures that display the interlinkages of poverty can stimulate and guide integrated policy, and also mentioned how South Africa’s census-based MPI was a ‘precision measure of poverty’ that interested many. Marcos Barraza (Chile) shared the structure and findings of Chile’s official National MPI launched in January 2015, and Dang Huy Dong (Vietnam) explained the need to have a ‘headline’ indicator of multidimensional poverty to give visibility to social progress. Cecilia Vaca Jones (Ecuador), whose country will shortly release a national MPI, articulated how it resonated with the indigenous cosmology of Buen Vivir, of harmony between peoples, and with the environment. Savas Alpay (Islamic Development Bank) described the interest in Islamic Development Bank member countries in building national MPIs, and of their work in supporting capacity building in statistical offices.

In a closing set of brief and pity remarks as well as submitted statements, other important points emerged. Mikheil Janelidze (Georgia) shared how MPI is a natural next step given their history of social policy interventions. Maria Luisa Navarro (Panama) charted Panama’s trajectory which has spawned an interest in multidimensional poverty measurement.   Amadou Ba (Senegal) shared their work on building a national MPI – the first in Africa, and Tarek Nabulsi (League of Arab States) described the need in the Arab region for a comparable MPI, but one focused on moderate poverty, and their collaboration with UNESWA to bring this into being. Ingolf Dietrich (Germany) articulated Germany’s interest in following how multidimensional poverty metrics are evolving, and Noam Unger (USAID) shared how USAID’s new vision for extreme poverty is, for the first time, multidimensional. Mexico, the country who had released their National MPI even before UNDP’s Global MPI launch in 2010, closed the session, and welcomed participants to come to the next meeting of the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (, which will be hosted by Mexico.

Highlights from the discussion included:

20150927-DSC_3759 (1)The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, whose message to the audience was delivered by H.E. Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, shared with participants the number of Global MPI poor people in developing countries and said:

“Our challenge, at the global, national and local levels, is to reduce these numbers and ensure lives of dignity for all.  That means accurately tracking vulnerability, exclusion and other key variables.  It means seizing the great potential of the data revolution to help us better measure poverty and get a full picture of its impacts.  Only then will Governments, which will be in the driver’s seat of implementation, be able to determine and pursue their national priorities.”

20150927-DSC_3384H.E. Mr. Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, President of Costa Rica who celebrated the priority of poverty in all its forms and dimensions in the SDGs, and stressed how national multidimensional poverty index, or MPI, can improve the effectiveness of social policy. He said

“…leaders that are committed to fighting against poverty in all its dimensions need to join forces to create mechanisms to achieve our objectives. I believe in the relevance of making the complexity of our challenges visible: we must understand poverty as the deprivation of several capacities and living conditions, and not merely as the lack of income.”

Stressing the need to include a Global MPI within the SDGs he said:

“…similarly to the case of the $1.25-a-day indicator of extreme poverty, we need an index of multidimensional poverty that is comparable across countries and over time, such as the existing Global MPI of UNDP and OPHI. We need an index that considers acute and moderate poverty. And we need this index to be disaggregated by region and indicator.”

20150927-DSC_3552H.E. Mr. Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan talked about Bhutan’s two-pronged approach to multidimensional measurement which captures the multiple dimensions of wellbeing in the form of the Gross National Happiness Index and the multiple dimensions of poverty in their official national MPI.

He observed that ‘Indicators are like eyes: they help us to see things; they bring matters into focus’ – and so shape action:

“Bhutan’s national MPI is not only a measure, it is also a tool – a policy tool. We use it to inform our allocation of resources. It identifies people who are poor because of gaps in infrastructure and social services, even where people are not income poor, as in one of our remotest district.”

He raised “the call to have a Global MPI as a Tier 1 indicator of the SDGs, and to support others to develop the use National MPIs” – yet he also encouraged linked measures of poverty and well-being:

“Together we can design a new metric by which to assess our societies and our own lives, one that not only leaves no person behind, but also leaves no part of human life and potential behind.”

20150927-DSC_3609H.E. Mr. Juan Orlando Hernández
, President of Honduras, who grew up in the rural areas, used the case of Don Camilo to illustrate interconnected deprivations faced by farmers and their multiple causes. He said:

“It has taken us a long time to understand that poverty is multidimensional – that it is a complex phenomenon, and must be confronted with different tools and from different angles.”

He also showed how the Global MPI can be used to compare poverty in Honduras with situations in Asia and the Arab States. He said:

This ability to differentiate between countries and regions using the MPI shows us the territorial imbalances that we must break.”

20150927-DSC_3708H.E. Mr. Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia who spoke about the particular challenges of the hidden, forgotten and isolated poor among small island developing states, drew out the potential of joining together efforts to fight poverty and to strike out environmental threats within the SDGs. He said that

“A Global MPI helps us know and understand poverty better, allows us to compare clearer, and gives us a stronger platform to remove the scourge of poverty from the human family.”

Of the new global development agenda he said:

“Lifting people out of poverty means uplifting the entire human experience. Target 1.2 of our new Sustainable Development Goals affirms this and promotes efforts for a Global Multidimensional Poverty Index.”

The further contributions from senior representatives of governments who have adopted or are establishing official national MPIs showed the energy, vitality and rapid pace of growth in this emerging area of poverty measurement. The meeting agenda shows the diversity of participants from around the world.

Leaders who could not speak in person shared statements on multidimensional poverty measurement efforts at the global and national levels including the President of Colombia, the Vice President of the Dominican Republic, the Head of Statistics of Sudan, and senior government officials from Turkey and Seychelles.

Photography credit: Zach Damberger

Back to top

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.

Back to top

Blog: Income and Multidimensional Poverty – Fighting poverty in all its dimensions

The way we define poverty has changed. At the Sustainable Development Summit on 25-27 September 2015, the UN will formally adopt a new sustainable development agenda that will include a goal to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. The new goals officially recognise that poverty is more than a lack of money. This is a significant turning point that brings us closer to understanding the true extent of poverty – and a crucial step towards fighting it.

With 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) finalised, attention will now turn to how they will be measured, and how to use new measures to improve governance.  And fortunately governments have some experience on how this can be done. Later this month at a high-level side event during the Sustainable Development Summit, leaders and ministers from governments around the world will underline their experience with a Multidimensional Poverty Index at the national level, used to complement the traditional income measure.  The Presidents of Costa Rica, Ecuador and Honduras and the Prime Ministers of Bhutan and Saint Lucia, and senior ministers from Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and the Philippines, are among those who will argue, based on their experience, for a Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) to be embedded in the new development framework as a measure of target 1.2 – to reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions by 2030.  Such a global indicator to measure progress towards poverty reduction would complement MPIs at the national level.

A new Global MPI would build on the current Global MPI that has been published by the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report Office since 2010, developed with and calculated by the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI), a research centre at the University of Oxford. It complements traditional measures of income poverty by combining different indicators of deprivation such as poor sanitation, malnutrition, unsafe water, poor quality housing and lack of education. According to the latest updates of the Global MPI, released in June this year and covering 101 developing countries, 1.6 billion people are living in multidimensional poverty around the world.

An improved Global MPI for the SDGs (the MPI 2015+) would draw together SDG indicators and help us gain an even richer picture of the true reality of poverty.

The side event is organised by the government of Costa Rica with the support of the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN), a group of 40 governments that is championing the use of multidimensional poverty measures alongside traditional income measures at both the national and global levels. These governments also include China, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Vietnam, among many others.

With such diverse nations committed to multidimensional poverty measurement in the SDGs, the Global MPI 2015+ can be complemented by countries’ national MPIs – as is already occurring. Using indicators of poverty relevant to their own specific contexts, the governments of Bhutan, Colombia, Chile, Malaysia and Mexico, as well as the state government of Minas Gerais in Brazil and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, have already launched such measures. Many others – including Pakistan, Philippines, Ecuador, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Tunisia and Vietnam – are in the process of developing theirs.

Global and national MPIs drive forward the emphasis on leaving no one behind because they can be disaggregated by states or provinces, and by other groups. They incentivise synergistic and integrated policies because they show which deprivations affect people at the same time. By identifying how and where people are poor, multidimensional poverty measures enable governments to allocate resources, and design targeted and integrated policy interventions more effectively. People’s lives are complex and we need to take a joined up approach to fighting poverty.

Poverty goes beyond income – by next week that will be official. Now we must equip governments at the national level and the global community with the most effective tools for fighting it.  National MPIs and a Global Multidimensional Poverty Index for the SDGs can complement income poverty measures and help energise a coordinated, effective and multi-sectoral attack on poverty in all its dimensions, driving forward real social change.

Sabina Alkire is Director of the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford and the Oliver T. Carr Professor and Professor of Economics and International Affairs at George Washington University.

Back to top

Vietnam moves to multidimensional approach to poverty reduction

Urban poverty resizedVietnam will move from one-dimensional poverty measurement to a multidimensional approach with a new programme approved by the Prime Minister for 2016-2020.

The country will adopt a national measure of multidimensional poverty, based on OPHI’s Alkire-Foster method, which will show the disadvantages poor people face across five different areas:

  • living conditions;
  • income levels;
  • access to education and healthcare;
  • access to information; and
  • access to insurance and social assistance.

Households that cannot meet over a third of their basic needs in these areas will be identified as multidimensionally poor, while those lacking more than half will be considered critically poor.

The new measure can be broken down to reveal what poverty is like in specific areas of the country and among different communities, helping policymakers to target their resources effectively and implement coordinated poverty-reduction initiatives.

In December 2014, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam launched the first city-wide multidimensional poverty index. The measure revealed significant differences between income and multidimensional poverty. While only 0.1% of the city’s population lives below Vietnam’s national income poverty line, the MPI shows that 11.35% of people are multidimensionally poor.

The governments of Bhutan, Colombia, Chile, Malaysia and Mexico, as well as the state government of Minas Gerais in Brazil, have also already launched official multidimensional poverty measures using indicators of poverty relevant to their own specific contexts. Many others – including Pakistan, Philippines, Ecuador, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Tunisia – are in the process of developing such measures.

Further information

Find out more about the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network, a group of over 40 countries and institutions that support the use of multidimensional poverty measures alongside traditional measures of income poverty at both the global and national levels.

Read about results from the Ho Chi Minh City MPI.

Photo credit: Cameron Thibos

Back to top

Video: Poverty on the Table

Oxford-based theatre company Justice in Motion have produced a short play on behalf of OPHI, exploring the multidimensional layers of poverty. Watch a video of the performance below.

A high resolution version of this video is available to watch on YouTube.

Find out more about multidimensional poverty.

Back to top

Measuring women’s autonomy in Chad

Women in Chad are significantly less autonomous than men, according to a new study published in the OPHI Research in Progress series.

Researchers from OPHI and George Washington University used the Relative Autonomy Index (RAI) to assess men’s and women’s motivational autonomy in the Republic of Chad across eight different domains of life, including household activities such as cleaning or doing laundry, making major household purchases, participating in groups, and employment. The RAI directly measures the extent to which a person’s motivation for his or her behaviour in a specific domain, or aspect of life, is autonomous as opposed to controlled.

Using a nationally representative dataset, the study found that women in Chad on average had less autonomous motivation in all eight domains compared to their male counterparts.

The researchers also investigated the relationship between women’s autonomy and breastfeeding. They found that motivational autonomy at the community-level was associated with likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of a child’s life. Women that live in clusters where other women have higher autonomy in household activities were on average more likely to exclusively breastfeed their children than women that live in more coerced environments.

In comparison, there was no significant positive association between breastfeeding and motivational autonomy at the individual level. The researchers suggest this indicates that in the Republic of Chad, motivational autonomy might work through mechanisms at the community rather than the individual level.

On average across the country, the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life was 38.4%.

The study also explores the correlation between autonomy and indicators of psychological and subjective wellbeing. It found that relative autonomy was weakly correlated with psychological wellbeing, but had no clear relationship with subjective wellbeing – it was even negatively correlated with the indicators of overall life satisfaction and happiness.

Read the full paper

Measuring Women’s Autonomy in Chad and its Associations with Breastfeeding Practices Using the Relative Autonomy Index, by Ana Vaz, Pierre Pratley and Sabina Alkire, was published in the OPHI Research in Progress series in August 2015.

Please note that OPHI Research in Progress papers are preliminary documents posted online to stimulate discussion and critical comment.

Back to top

Applications invited for OPHI Training Course in Dakar, in collaboration with SESRIC and ISFD

OPHI, in collaboration with the Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Centre for Islamic Countries (SESRIC) and the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD), is inviting applications for a training course in Multidimensional Poverty Measurement that will be hosted in Dakar, Senegal.

The course will be taught in English, but will have simultaneous translation into French and Arabic.

The course will take place from 30 November-6 December, 2015. The purpose of this intensive training is to provide a thorough conceptual and technical introduction to some techniques of measuring multidimensional poverty with a strong emphasis on the Alkire Foster method. The empirical motivation for measuring multidimensional poverty will be presented as well as the conceptual motivation, drawing on Amartya Sen’s capability approach.


Applicants are warmly invited to apply by completing the application form which is available by clicking HERE. The closing date for applications is 25 September 2015, and participants will be informed of selection from 30 September.

**N.B. please forward all relevant attachments to

Further information

More details on the course and a draft agenda are available here. Any further enquiries can be directed to Julia Zulver (

The training courses is addressed to those who are working on, or actively interested in gaining skills in, multidimensional poverty measurement, particularly, professionals, government officials, academics, and post-graduate students. Other applicants having a demonstrated research interest in empirical analysis in these topics will be considered on the basis of their experience and space availability.


  • A demonstrable knowledge of STATA is an absolute pre-requisite for attending the course. Every attendant to the training course will need to have STATA 10 or higher installed in his/her laptop. The software is not provided by the organizers
  • Where possible, participants should have a strong knowledge in quantitative methods (e.g. econometrics, statistics, etc), and a strong interest in poverty measurement and analysis.


Back to top

UNGA high-level side event: Anchoring a Global Multidimensional Poverty Index within the SDGs

High-level side event at the UN General Assembly, New York

 27 September 2015, Conference Room 3 (CR3), 1:15-2:45 pm

At this critical juncture in the process of finalising how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be measured, this event will show the importance of embedding a multidimensional measure of poverty within the new framework. Specifically, it will stress how a global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), as a core (tier one) indicator within the SDGs, can energise a coordinated, effective and multi-sectoral attack on poverty in all its dimensions (and thus help to measure Target 1.2 of the SDGs).

Distinguished speakers at the event include:

  • H. E. Mr. Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, President of Costa Rica
  • H. E. Mr. Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan
  • H. E. Mr. Juan Orlando Hernández, President of Honduras
  • H.E. Mr. Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia
  • H. E. Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador (tbc)
  • South Africa
  • H. E. Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations
  • Tatyana Orozco de la Cruz, Director of the Department for Social Prosperity of Colombia
  • Marcos Barraza Gómez, Minister of Social Development of Chile
  • H. E. Dr. Arsenio Balisacan, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary of the Philippines
  • Dr. Savas Alpay, Chief Economist of the Islamic Development Bank

The event is organised by the Republic of Costa Rica with the support of the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN), of which OPHI acts as Secretariat. The MPPN is a South-South network of more than 40 governments and institutions that is championing the use of multidimensional poverty measures alongside traditional income measures at both the national and global levels. These governments include China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Vietnam among many others.

The diverse participants within the MPPN endorse the use of the global MPI for the SDGs and the use of national, regional and sub-national MPIs as a powerful policy tools for enhanced poverty reduction, with the ability to illuminate the state and progress of marginalised groups.

For more information or to RSVP please email Please note that security for the event will be tight as the event is taking place during the Summit to Adopt the SDGs. Please be advised that attendance must be confirmed by Thursday 24 September. All attendees must provide their full first name and surname. Further details and security screening will be given after your confirmation. Please note that even those participants with a UN Ground Pass need to be included in the attendance list.

Back to top

IMF podcast: Painting a Better Picture of Poverty

Director of OPHI Sabina Alkire is interviewed in the International Monetary Fund’s Survey Magazine podcast series.

The podcast explores how the Multidimensional Poverty Index reflects the overlapping disadvantages poor people can experience at the same time, highlighting how it can be used to inform more effective poverty-reduction strategies.

Listen to the podcast on the IMF website.

Back to top

Video: Poverty in El Salvador from the perspective of the protagonists

UNDP El Salvador and OPHI have produced a video exploring what poverty means, from the perspective of those who are experiencing it.

The video reveals that for those living in poverty in El Salvador, poverty means deprivations in housing, access to work, education, surroundings, health, food, security, and income.

Based on the experiences of poor people themselves, dimensions and deprivations of poverty have been identified to build a multidimensional poverty index to measure poverty in El Salvador.

Back to top

OPHI holds annual summer school on multidimensional poverty in Washington, D.C.

OPHI’s annual summer school on multidimensional poverty analysis was hosted at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. from 3-15 August 2015.

67 people from more than 30 countries took part in the intensive two-week course, including researchers as well as policymakers and technical experts from government offices around the world.

The course was led by OPHI researchers and taught from OPHI’s recently published book, Multidimensional Poverty Measurement & Analysis. It aimed to provide participants with a thorough conceptual and technical introduction to techniques of measuring multidimensional poverty, with a strong emphasis on the Alkire Foster method.

Materials from the summer school, including videos and presentations, will be available on the OPHI website soon.

Further information

Visit for more information about OPHI’s book, including electronic chapters and resources.

To keep up to date with information on next year’s summer school, sign up for OPHI’s e-newsletter.

Back to top

Sustainable Development Agenda to include goal on multidimensional poverty

Goal 1 of the Sustainable Development Goals proposes to reduce poverty in all its dimensions

A goal to reduce multidimensional poverty has been accepted as part of the sustainable development agenda to be adopted by the UN in September 2015. 193 governments announced their consensus on the agenda on Sunday 2 August.  Their shared vision for the future of sustainable development, which includes 17 goals and 169 targets, is described in the document “Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development”.

The declaration of the 193 countries reads:

We recognise that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development”.

We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment”.

The goal:

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Goal 1.2. By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.

Measuring progress

To monitor progress towards the goal, OPHI and the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN) are calling for an integrated measure of multidimensional poverty – the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 2015+ – to be included as an indicator in the SDGs.

The Global MPI 2015+ would reflect the overlapping disadvantages that each poor person experiences at the same time – this could include, for example, poor sanitation, malnutrition, gender discrimination, poor quality of work, or violence. It could be broken down to show what poverty is like in different areas of a country, or among different groups of the population, enabling governments to better target their resources and combat poverty more effectively.

Further information

Read more about the consensus on the Sustainable Development Agenda and see a copy of the draft agreement for adoption.

Find out more about the Global MPI 2015+ and governments that have already adopted official national measures of multidimensional poverty.

Back to top

Disparities between monetary and multidimensional poverty: Evidence from Vietnam

People who are poor according to monetary poverty measures are not always multidimensionally poor, a new study published in the OPHI working paper series has found.

The researchers used panel household survey data in Vietnam from 2007, 2008 and 2010 to analyse the prevalence and dynamics of both multidimensional and monetary poverty. Using the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), a measure of poverty that accounts for multiple deprivations experienced by the poor across health, education and living standards, they compared the level of multidimensional poverty in Vietnam with the level of monetary poverty (set at the cut-off of $1.67 a day).

Their findings revealed that among those who are monetary poor (16.3% of the population), only a third are also multidimensionally poor (5.5% of the population).

The results show a large disparity between monetary and multidimensional measures of poverty, including variation across different groups of the population depending on households’ characteristics and their access to markets. Those who have better access to markets and public services benefit more from economic growth and are more likely to see a decline in monetary poverty, while their performance in the multidimensional measure is less impressive.

The authors note that this implies the results of economic growth are transferred more directly to the reduction in income poverty during the early years of development. They argue that the increase in income is necessary but not sufficient for the improvements in other indicators of poverty, which usually require a longer amount of time and additional efforts.

The study found that people from a less educated background, for example where the head of the household has no schooling or primary education only, are more likely to be poor according to both the monetary and multidimensional measures of poverty. They also experience a higher intensity of poverty.

The research also revealed a greater decrease in monetary poverty than multidimensional poverty over time. In particular, the poor made faster progress but with more fluctuations in monetary rather than multidimensional poverty. Conversely, the non-poor experienced more fluctuations and download mobility in indicators of multidimensional poverty.

The researchers emphasise that poverty reduction policies should pay explicit attention to improving non-income indicators of poverty, which have shown slower progress.

Read the full paper

Static and Dynamic Disparities between Monetary and Multidimensional Poverty Measurement: Evidence from Vietnam’, by Van Q. Tran, Sabina Alkire and Stephan Klasen, was published in the OPHI working paper series in August 2015.

Also published as a chapter in Measurement of Poverty, Deprivation and Economic Mobility.

Further information

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


Back to top

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.

Back to top

UNDP blog post: The poor by any other name

What urban poverty studies in Viet Nam might tell us about the changing face of Asian poverty

By Richard Marshall, Nguyen Bui Linh and Sarah Reed, UNDP

Reblogged from UNDP in Asia and the Pacific

Roughly 54 per cent of the world’s population now lives in cities, with Asia and Africa urbanizing faster than other regions. Urbanization is generally seen as a route to rising prosperity and better living standards. But critical researchers like David Sattherthwaite and Diana Mitlin argue that standard ways of measuring poverty underplays its significant scale.

The risks? Without a complete understanding of the nature and scope of urban poverty, policymakers may fail to prioritize and worse still, lack the tools to tackle it. This, even as more and more people move to cities in search of jobs, better schools for their children, more security and better public services among a laundry list of benefits conflated with life in the cities.

Since 2009, the United Nations Development Programme has worked with Viet Nam’s Ho Chi Minh City authorities  to assess poverty using the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) a lens that is less susceptible to the shortcomings that more traditional yardsticks are riddled with.

Developed by the globally-acclaimed poverty gurus Sabina Alkire and James Foster, the MPI allows us to measure the extent and intensity of poverty by unpacking the deprivations that manifest themselves to make an individual or family ‘poor’ (e.g. health, education, and living standards), rather by looking simply at amount of money households earn or spend.

Back to top

OPHI’s Sabina Alkire and James Foster to serve on World Bank’s Commission on Global Poverty

OPHI Director Sabina Alkire and Research Associate James Foster will serve on the World Bank’s Commission on Global Poverty.

The new Commission will be chaired by Sir Tony Atkinson, member of the OPHI Advisory Committee.

The Commission’s mandate is to report on the best ways to measure and monitor poverty and deprivation around the world. More about the Commission on Global Poverty.

Back to top

New blog post: Seeing Poverty Up Close

A new blog post from OPHI’s Sabina Alkire explores how the recent updates of the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) provide a detailed picture of poverty, revealing the multiple disadvantages experienced by the poor across different regions of countries.

It highlights how the Global MPI can be broken down to reveal which regions and groups are poorest, and which are reducing poverty the fastest, providing a detailed map that enables policymakers to  target resources and initiatives effectively.

Read the full blog post on ‘Debating Development’, a blog from the University of Oxford’s Department of International Development.

Back to top

OPHI working paper proposes multidimensional measure to tackle Roma poverty and exclusion

Researchers from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights have proposed a multidimensional poverty index (MPI) to better reflect the reality of poverty and exclusion faced by the Roma population – one of the biggest minorities in Europe.

The proposed MPI measures the deprivations people face in 12 equally weighted indicators of poverty and exclusion, which are grouped into 6 dimensions: basic rights, health, education, housing, standard of living and employment. People experiencing five to seven deprivations are considered to be multidimensionally poor, while those experiencing eight or more deprivations are considered to live in severe multidimensional poverty.

The researchers looked at multidimensional poverty rates among Roma and their non-Roma neighbours in the five EU countries with the highest Roma populations: Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic. Based on 2011 data, the findings revealed that Romania was the country with the greatest proportion of Roma living in multidimensional poverty (59%), followed by Bulgaria (42%). However, the researchers observed a decline in multidimensional poverty levels among Roma in both of these countries between 2004 and 2011. Significantly, while multidimensional poverty among non-Roma in Romania also decreased, there was a small increase in Bulgaria.

The analysis also revealed changes in the contribution of individual dimensions to overall poverty levels over time. In Bulgaria, for example, the contribution of access to employment, of education and of housing vulnerability declined but was offset by an increase in deprivation in health and individual rights. Romania followed a similar pattern, but improvement in employment and educational vulnerability was more pronounced than the deterioration in access to health and individual rights, resulting in a greater overall decrease in MPI.

The researchers argue that a major advantage of the MPI is its ability to reflect changes in different indicators and therefore track the impact of individual, sector-specific poverty-reduction policies. Policy interventions and resources can be targeted at areas most in need.

The paper also provides an overview of the available approaches and possible sources of information that can generate the data necessary for monitoring different aspects of Roma poverty and exclusion, recognising that data on the absolute number and distribution of the Roma population in the EU is often limited and incomparable.

In particular, the researchers argue that two important dimensions remain insufficiently covered by available data but are crucial to ensuring poverty measures capture more than socioeconomic status. These are ‘aspirations’, and ‘agency’ – the resources and opportunities required to reach those aspirations. They call for data on these dimensions to be generated through the thematic components in the standardised European social surveys

Read the full paper

Roma Poverty and Deprivation: The Need for Multidimensional Anti-Poverty Measures’ by Andrey Ivanov, Sheena Keller and Ursula Till-Tentschert, was published in the OPHI working paper series in July 2015.

Back to top

Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2015 launched in South Africa

The South Africa launch of the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 2015 took place in Stellenbosch on 29 June. Speaking at the ISIbalo symposium at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, OPHI Director Sabina Alkire presented findings from the 2015 annual updates of the Global MPI, with a focus on Africa.

The Global MPI is an internationally-comparable measure of acute multidimensional poverty covering 101 developing countries, which are home to 75% of the world’s population. Analysis from the 2015 annual updates revealed that nearly a third (31%) of global MPI poor people live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest incidence and intensity of multidimensional poverty, while Europe has the lowest.

This year the annual ISIbalo symposium aimed to highlight work on spatial analysis of poverty and human conditions by CRUISE, a collaboration between Statistics South Africa and the department of Geography and Environmental studies at Stellenbosch University.

Following the symposium, OPHI staff ran a 3-day intensive training course on constructing an MPI organised by Statistics South Africa. Participants included statisticians, academics, geographers and administrative staff from Statistics South Africa, as well as representatives from the University of Cape Town and the statistics office of Burkina Faso.

The Global MPI has been calculated by OPHI and published in the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report since 2010. The 2015 annual updates were formally launched at an event in Oxford on 22 June. Videos and presentations from the event are available online.

Further information

Find out more about the Global MPI 2015. Download a 2-page at-a-glance overview of key findings and an 8 page summary of main results.

Back to top

OPHI launches Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2015 and new book on multidimensional poverty measurement

OPHI hosted a special event at Magdalen College, Oxford on Monday 22 June to combine the launch of the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2015 and the launch of a new book, Multidimensional Poverty Measurement & Analysis.

With the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) due to be adopted by the UN in September this year, this event highlighted the importance of rigorous multidimensional measurement for ensuring that poverty in all its forms can successfully be reduced.

The Global MPI is an internationally-comparable measure of acute poverty covering 101 developing countries. Marking the fifth anniversary of the Global MPI, OPHI researchers presented new findings from the updated estimations, on topics including regional differences in poverty, destitution, and multidimensional poverty in China.

The event also launched Multidimensional Poverty Measurement & Analysis, OPHI’s new book from Oxford University Press, which provides a unique guide to viewing poverty through a multidimensional lens.

Guest contributors at the event included Selim Jahan, Director of the UNDP Human Development Report Office, and Brian Nolan, Max Roser, Frances Stewart and Nandini Gooptu from the University of Oxford.

The book launch also featured a specially-commissioned theatre performance by Oxford-based theatre company Justice in Motion, and discussion from five of the book’s authors: Sabina Alkire, OPHI Director and Professor of Economics and International Affairs at George Washington University; Suman Seth, OPHI Senior Research Officer and Lecturer in Economics at Leeds University Business School; James Foster, OPHI Research Associate and Professor of Economics and International Affairs at George Washington University; Jose Manuel Roche, Head of Research at Save the Children UK; and Paola Ballon, OPHI Research Associate and Senior Researcher for the Partnership of Economic Policy.

Global MPI team

OPHI Global MPI team with guest contributors: (L-R) Yangyang Shen, Frances Stewart, Gisela Robles Aguilar, Christoph Jindra, Max Roser, James Foster, Selim Jahan, Sabina Alkire and Nandini Gooptu.

Book team

OPHI book team with guests: (L-R) Paola Ballon, Brian Nolan, Tony Atkinson, Frances Stewart, Sabina Alkire, James Foster, Suman Seth and Jose Manuel Roche.

Further information

Find out more about the Global MPI 2015, including links to briefing papers and resources, at

For further information about OPHI’s book, including draft chapters and resources, visit The book is available to order from Oxford University Press.

Back to top

Monthly Archives

  • September 2015
  • August 2015
  • July 2015
  • June 2015
  • May 2015
  • April 2015
  • March 2015
  • February 2015
  • January 2015
  • December 2014
  • November 2014
  • October 2014
  • September 2014
  • August 2014
  • July 2014
  • June 2014
  • May 2014
  • April 2014
  • March 2014
  • February 2014
  • January 2014
  • December 2013
  • November 2013
  • October 2013
  • September 2013
  • August 2013
  • July 2013
  • June 2013
  • May 2013
  • April 2013
  • March 2013
  • February 2013
  • January 2013
  • December 2012
  • November 2012
  • October 2012
  • September 2012
  • August 2012
  • July 2012
  • June 2012
  • May 2012
  • April 2012
  • March 2012
  • February 2012
  • January 2012
  • December 2011
  • November 2011
  • October 2011
  • September 2011
  • August 2011
  • July 2011
  • June 2011
  • May 2011
  • April 2011
  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • January 2011
  • December 2010
  • November 2010
  • October 2010
  • September 2010
  • August 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • March 2010
  • February 2010
  • January 2010
  • April 2009
  • Latest news from the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative