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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Latest figures on where 1.6 billion poor people live

New report on global poverty highlights extent of the challenges facing UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals

More than 1.6 billion people are living in multidimensional poverty around the world, according to new analysis from the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

A new report on the latest figures for the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) shows multidimensional poverty in 101 developing countries, covering 5.2 billion people, or 75% of the world’s population. The Global MPI complements measures based on income and reflects the overlapping disadvantages poor people can face across different areas of their lives all at the same time. They include poor health, a lack of education and low living standards. If people are deprived in at least one-third of ten weighted indicators, they are identified as multidimensionally poor. The index combines the percentage of people living in multidimensional poverty with the intensity of deprivations, or how much they are experienced.

The findings suggest that the scale of global poverty is even greater than is often estimated using traditional measures based on income. In some countries, including Mexico, Pakistan and Egypt, the researchers found that the number of people living in multidimensional poverty is twice the number who live on less than $1.25 a day.

Unlike global monetary poverty measures, the MPI can be broken down to give poverty levels for 884 regions within countries, as well as highlighting the different ways that people are poor. For example, the figures reveal that, of the 1.6 billion people living in multidimensional poverty:

  • more than 1.2 billion people don’t have adequate sanitation;
  • over 1 billion are living on dirt floors;
  • around 900 million do not have electricity;
  • roughly 900 million people live in a household where someone is malnourished; and
  • more than half a billion live in a home in which no-one has completed five years of school.

Sabina Alkire, Director of OPHI at the University of Oxford and the Oliver T Carr Professor and Professor of Economics and International Affairs at George Washington University, said: ‘This analysis highlights how MPI and monetary poverty measures can complement each other to ensure no-one is overlooked. Often people assume that those living in income poverty are the same people that live in multidimensional poverty – but this is often not the case. Only by using both measures alongside each other can we capture the true reality of poverty.

‘As the UN prepares to adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals this September, which will determine the development agenda for the next 15 years, our findings serve as a powerful reminder of the extent of the poverty reduction challenge ahead and the need for an energetic and coordinated response.’

OPHI’s analysis of the Global MPI 2015 also reveals that the world’s poor do not necessarily live where you would expect.

*The findings show that over two thirds (70%) of people in multidimensional poverty actually live in middle-income countries, with just 30% living in low-income countries.

*More than 60% of people who are poor (according to the Global MPI) live in countries rated as having medium or high levels of development on the Human Development Index.

*62% of the multidimensionally poor live in countries that are not in the three highest categories of alert on the Failed States Index.

Overall, South Asia is home to over half (54%) of the global MPI poor population, while 31% live in Sub-Saharan Africa. The country with the highest percentage of people in multidimensional poverty is South Sudan where 91% of people are MPI poor. The region with the highest poverty rate is Salamat in Chad, where 98% of people are living in multidimensional poverty.

As well as revealing where the poor live, the MPI can be used as a valuable tool for identifying the different types of disadvantage poor people face. It enables policymakers to target their resources and effectively tackle poverty in its many different ways.

The Global MPI 2015 uses data ranging from 2005-2014, mainly collected by USAID’s Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) and UNICEF’s Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS), as well as PAPFAM and national surveys.

Further information

To arrange an interview with Sabina Alkire or for an advance copy of OPHI’s briefing paper on the Global MPI, contact Claire Battye (OPHI Research Communications Officer) on +44 (0)1865 271528 or

Alternatively contact Paddy Coulter, OPHI Communications Director, at


Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI)

OPHI is a research centre within the Oxford Department of International Development at the University of Oxford. OPHI is led by Sabina Alkire and works to develop and apply new ways of measuring and analysing poverty, human development and welfare, drawing on the work of Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen. For more information about OPHI, please visit

Background to the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

The MPI was created by OPHI Director Sabina Alkire and OPHI Research Associate Maria Emma Santos (now also at Universidad Nacional del Sur and the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (National Scientific and Technical Research Council), Argentina) in collaboration with the UNDP’s Human Development Report Office, which also publishes the results. It is constructed using a methodology developed by Professor Alkire and Professor James Foster, an OPHI Research Associate and Professor of Economics and International Affairs at George Washington University. That methodology is also used to construct several national measures of poverty (for example in Mexico, Colombia, Bhutan and Chile).

For more information on the MPI, including infographics, briefings, data and other resources, please see
Visit OPHI’s online interactive databank for maps and graphs showing the level and composition of multidimensional poverty across countries and sub-national regions:

Calculation of poverty using the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

A person is identified as ‘multidimensionally poor’ if she or he is deprived in one-third or more of ten (weighted) indicators. The MPI of a country or region is calculated by multiplying the proportion of poor people (H) by the average share of deprivations that poor people face at the same time, i.e. the average intensity of their poverty (A). In other words, MPI=HxA. By directly measuring the different types of poverty in each household, the MPI captures how people experience different deprivations simultaneously. See Alkire, S. and Robles, G. (2015). “Multidimensional Poverty Index – Summer 2015: Brief Methodological Note and Results.” OPHI Briefing number 31, University of Oxford, June.

Data sources and constraints

The MPI relies on the most recent data available, mainly from two datasets that are publicly available and comparable for most developing countries: USAID’s Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) and UNICEF’s Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS). It also uses national surveys for eight countries, and PAPFAM surveys for four.

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OPHI book on multidimensional poverty measurement & analysis now published

OPHI’s new book on Multidimensional Poverty Measurement & Analysis has now been published by Oxford University Press. The book provides an in-depth account of multidimensional poverty comparison methodologies, with a particular focus on the Alkire-Foster Method. From 10-19 June, the authors of the book – Sabina Alkire, James Foster, Suman Seth, Maria Emma Santos, José  Manuel Roche and Paola Ballon – will be giving presentations at universities in Germany  (Gottingen, Dortmund, Heidelberg ) and Belgium (CORE), followed by the London School of Economics and universities of Leeds, Sussex and Essex in the UK.

The book will be officially launched at a special event at the University of Oxford on 22 June 2015, which combines the launch of the book and the launch of the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 2015.

Further information

The book is available to buy from Oxford University Press

You can read more about the book here and access chapters online here.

You can register to attend the book launch here.

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Third annual meeting of the global Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network held in Colombia

Group photo 2 - cropped for web

The third annual meeting of the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network was hosted by the Government of Colombia from 2-3 June 2015 in Cartagena. More than 100 policymakers and senior officials came together for the two-day meeting to discuss developing and applying multidimensional poverty measures.

President Santos of Colombia attended the event and addressed the MPPN on the first day of the meeting. He talked about the importance of multidimensional poverty measurement for the Colombian government.

The MPPN is a South-South initiative coordinated by OPHI that supports policymakers to develop multidimensional poverty measures.

Read the communiqué agreed at the event. Presentations and videos from the event will be made available online shortly.

Further information

Regional coverage of the meeting in Latin American media: and Prensa Latina.

Find out more about the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN) and the application of multidimensional poverty measures in different areas of the world.

Photo: Zach Damberger

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President of Colombia addresses the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network meeting 2015

9M0A5567More than 100 policymakers and senior officials have come together this week in Cartagena, Colombia, for the third annual meeting of the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN).

The MPPN is a South-South initiative of over 40 countries and institutions, coordinated by OPHI, that supports policymakers to develop multidimensional poverty measures.

President Santos of Colombia addressed the MPPN on the first day of the meeting. In his speech, he talked about the importance of the MPI for the Colombian government. He said:

“Understanding the complexity of the multiple dimensions of poverty is not easy but it is the right thing to do, and that is what we are doing.”

“We were one of the first countries to implement MPI measurements… this also guides our 2014-2018 national development plan.”

“The fight against multidimensional poverty is harder but much more effective.”

In his speech Mr. Santos highlighted that last year, with the support of the Organization of American States, many countries visited Colombia in order to learn from the country’s experience of implementing an MPI.

The President’s speech was followed by a discussion panel with the Colombian ministers of education, health, labour and education who shared their experiences of how the MPI has supported their work and government goals.

The third annual meeting of the MPPN runs from 2-3 June 2015 and is hosted by the government of Colombia.

Further information

Find out more about the MPPN and Colombia’s national MPI.

Photo Credit: Omar Bravo



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Tunisia to adopt Multidimensional Poverty Index

Tunisia has launched plans to develop an official national multidimensional poverty index (MPI). The plans were presented and discussed at a workshop in Tunis on Wednesday 27 May organised by the Tunisian Ministry of Development, Investment and International Cooperation (MDICI), the National Institute of Statistics (INS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

As well as an opening session led by these three partners, the workshop featured a presentation from the INS technical team who gave an overview of progress so far, including discussion on dimensions, indicators, cut-offs and data considerations. OPHI Research Officer Bouba Housseini (pictured below, right) also gave a presentation on the Alkire Foster methodology and the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network.

The workshop was attended by approximately 50 participants, including academics and representatives from government, civil society and international agencies.

The Tunisian MPI will be constructed using the Census 2014 and be updated later using the households spending and consumption survey 2015 conducted by the INS. Further workshops and consultations are planned over the next few months as the MPI is developed, with the aim of officially releasing the index later this year.

Tunisia workshop Bouba tunisia

Further information

Find out more about countries that have developed national MPIs.

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OPHI participates in the Ashmolean Museum’s Live Friday

OPHI’s work was presented in a brand new way at the Ashmolean Museum’s Live Friday: Social Animals event on 15 May, which showcased research from across the University of Oxford’s Social Sciences Division. Oxford-based theatre company Justice in Motion produced and performed a short play on behalf of OPHI, exploring the multidimensional layers of poverty.

Live Friday: Social Animals was organised in collaboration with the Social Sciences Division, with many departments and research centres taking part. The Ashmolean’s galleries opened their doors after hours for an evening of live performances, creative workshops and lively talks showcasing research from across the division.

Other activities hosted by centres in the Oxford Department of International Development included:

  • A performance-experience centred around migration, exclusion and discrimination from the International Migration Institute
  • Interactive activities exploring dietary diversity around the world from Young Lives
  • An exhibition of photographs by and about refugees courtesy of the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency

Find out more about the event on the Ashmolean’s Facebook page.

A video recording of OPHI’s play, titled ‘Poverty on the table’, will be available on the OPHI website soon.

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OPHI, the MPPN and the Government of Colombia host special side-event at Cartagena Data Festival

OPHI, the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN) and the Government of Colombia hosted a special side event at the Cartagena Data Festival on 21 April 2015. The event presented a new multidimensional poverty measure that can help to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” – a key component of the first goal of the final Open Working Group proposal for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Featuring a high-level dialogue among eminent panelists, the special event highlighted the Colombian national Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) and the newly proposed regional MPI for Latin America. It also showed how a Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (the MPI 2015+), supported by a data revolution, as part of the core poverty indicators of the SDGs can help to eradicate extreme poverty after 2015. The MPI 2015+ complements income poverty measures and shines a high-resolution lens on poverty, showing who is poor and how they are poor, helping to ensure that the SDGs “leave no one behind”.


Speakers included:

  • Tatyana Orozco, Director, Department for Social Prosperity, Colombia
  • Xavier Mancero, Senior Statistician, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
  • Sabina Alkire, Director, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford

Further information

Find out more about the Global MPI 2015+ and the Colombian MPI.

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New research explores how women’s empowerment in agriculture matters for nutrition in Ghana

A new study published in the Food Policy journal has used the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) to explore links between empowerment and nutrition among women in Ghana.

Researchers from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) looked at women’s empowerment in the five domains included in the WEAI: production, resources, income, leadership, and time use. The assessed the extent that women’s empowerment is linked to the adoption of infant and young child feeding (ICYF) practices and nutrition outcomes for women and children.

Their results show that not all domains of empowerment are associated with all nutrition practices and outcomes but that different domains may have different impacts.

For example, there was a strong link between women participating in credit decisions and having a diverse diet, although participation in credit decisions did not reduce the likelihood of women being underweight. In households where the female decision-maker is involved in production decisions, girls were nine per cent more likely to be exclusively breast-fed between 0-6 months.

Overall, women’s empowerment was more strongly associated with IYCF practices than nutrition outcomes.

There were also surprising negative associations. For example, women being involved in production decisions was linked to girls in the household having a less diverse diet.

The researchers note that previous work on the WEAI in Bangladesh and Nepal has revealed different associations between domains of empowerment and nutritional outcomes. They emphasise that this indicates policies designed to empower women and improve nutritional status need to be based on understanding which specific domains of women’s empowerment matter for particular outcomes in a specific context.

The WEAI was launched in March 2012 by OPHI with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and IFPRI. Unlike any other tool, it also measures women’s empowerment relative to men within their households, providing a more robust understanding of gender dynamics within households and communities.

Further information

What dimensions of women’s empowerment in agriculture matter for nutrition in Ghana?’, by Hazel Jean L. Malapit and Agnes R. Quisumbing, was published in Food Policy in April 2015.

Read an article on the findings by Lawrence Haddad in the Development Horizons blog.

Find out more about the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index on the OPHI website and download training materials.

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OPHI working paper reveals differences in multidimensional poverty across Sudan and South Sudan

Multidimensional poverty is greater in South Sudan than in Sudan, but experiences of the poor vary significantly by gender, age and geographical region, a new OPHI working paper has found.

Paola Ballon from the Universidad Del Pacifico in Peru and the University of Oxford, and Jean-Yves Duclos from Laval University in Canada, analysed data from the National Baseline Household Surveys (NBHS) of 2009. Focusing on two population subgroups, children aged six to fourteen and adults aged fifteen or over, they assessed poverty in four dimensions:

  • education;
  • consumption of food and non-food items, including clothing and transport expenses;
  • access to public assets such as waste disposal and sanitation; and
  • possession of private assets such as vehicles and multimedia goods.

Considering each dimension of poverty separately, the researchers found significant differences between the two countries and across different sections of the population. Their findings showed, for example, that illiteracy rates are higher and concentrated among the younger population in South Sudan, in contrast to Sudan, where illiteracy is more present among older age groups.

Overall, poverty was higher in South Sudan than in Sudan in all four dimensions, with the greatest gap between the two countries being in education poverty. Among adults in Sudan, the highest incidence of poverty was in private assets and the lowest was in education, while in South Sudan the greatest incidence of poverty was found in education and the lowest in consumption. Differences were similarly found in the poverty profiles of children across the two countries.

The researchers also used a combined measure of the four dimensions to analyse multidimensional poverty rates in each country.

They found that the proportion of the adult population living in multidimensional poverty was significantly higher in South Sudan (73%) than Sudan (49%), although the average intensity of poverty experienced by the poor was very similar across the two countries. The results indicate that private assets and education are the dimensions that contribute most to adult multidimensional poverty in Sudan and South Sudan respectively.

Multidimensional poverty was also greater among children in South Sudan (70%) than Sudan (59%). Among both children and adults in the two countries, multidimensional poverty was highest among those living in rural areas.

Looking at multidimensional poverty across sub-national regions, the lowest rates of poverty in Sudan and South Sudan were found in Khartoum and Western Equatoria respectively, while the highest rates were found in Western Darfur and Warap.

The researchers emphasise that policies aimed at reducing poverty in both countries should take into account differences in poverty levels across gender, age groups and geographical areas, to ensure resources can be efficiently targeted.

Read the full paper

Multidimensional Poverty in Sudan and South Sudan’, by Paola Ballon and Jean-Yves Duclos, was published in the OPHI working paper series in April 2015.

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Leaving no-one behind: Who are the poorest poor?

National averages of poverty often hide where the poorest people in the world live, according to a new study published in the Journal of International Development.

Researchers from OPHI, King’s College London and Save the Children UK, analysed data from household surveys carried out from 2003-2012 in 108 countries. Using the global 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 three different criteria to identifying the poorest billion people in the world:

  • Who are the poorest billion people from the poorest countries in the world?
  • Who are the poorest billion people from the world’s poorest subnational regions?
  • Which billion individuals experience the greatest intensity of poverty, and where do they live?

The research found that considering the intensity of poverty experienced by individuals, defined by the number of deprivations they suffer across different areas of their lives, can more accurately reveal who the poorest billion people are than looking only at those living in the world’s poorest countries or subnational regions.

When all countries were ranked by their MPI values, from the poorest to the least poor, the combined number of poor people living in the 28 poorest countries constituted the ‘bottom billion’. Ninety-nine per cent of this number lived in South Asian and Sub-Saharan African countries. When all subnational regions were ranked, the bottom billion was made up of the poor from 307 regions across 45 countries. Ninety-seven per cent lived in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

However, these results overlook people who do not live in the countries or regions that are poorest overall, but who may suffer extreme poverty individually. For example, 99 million people experiencing the most severe poverty, or greatest number of deprivations, live in China, while Indonesia is home to 16 million people in intense poverty, yet neither of these countries, or their regions, has an MPI that places them among the world’s poorest.

Similarly, considering only the poorest countries and regions does not reveal the existence of more than 1.5 million of those suffering intense poverty in both South Africa and Turkey, and more than one million in each Bolivia, Brazil, Egypt, Morocco, Peru and Vietnam. Overall, identifying the world’s poorest billion people by the intensity of their individual deprivations reveals that 15 per cent live outside South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The question of identifying where the poorest live is particularly relevant in the context of the post-2015 agenda and Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to ‘leave no-one behind’. The researchers emphasise the importance of accurately monitoring how the world’s poorest are distributed, in order to ensure resources and policies can be effectively targeted to eradicate poverty. They highlight the flexibility the MPI offers as a measure of poverty that can be broken down beyond national boundaries to reveal the experiences of the poor at both regional and group levels, including across rural and urban areas and different ethnic populations, but also on an individual basis.

Read the full paper

Gated access: ‘Identifying the Poorest People and Groups: Strategies Using the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index’, by Sabina Alkire, Jose Manuel Roche, Suman Seth and Andrew Sumner, was published in the Journal of International Development in April 2015

Working paper access: ‘Identifying the Poorest People and Groups: Strategies Using the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index’, by Sabina Alkire, Jose Manuel Roche, Suman Seth and Andrew Sumner, was published in the OPHI working paper series in November 2014.

Multidimensional poverty measurement in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Read more about OPHI’s proposal for a Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2015+ in the SDGs.

Download OPHI’s 4-page briefing paper on Multidimensional Poverty in the SDGs.

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New OPHI working paper explores measuring wellbeing for public policy

A new working paper published by OPHI presents Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach as a framework for measuring well-being to inform public policy.

The paper, by OPHI director Sabina Alkire, highlights how the Capability Approach conceives of wellbeing as the freedom people have to enjoy valuable activities and states – their functionings and capabilities instead of resources or utility.

It outlines how the Alkire Foster (AF) method, used extensively for multidimensional poverty measurement and reduction, can be interpreted as a measure of capability poverty and used to identify the functionings or capabilities that a person might or might not have – such as being able to be well-nourished, literate, sheltered from bad weather, and safe from violence.

The paper explores how the Royal Government of Bhutan has extended this methodology to wellbeing measurement in their official Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. Released in 2008 and updated in 2012, Bhutan’s multidimensional GNH Index measures the population’s wellbeing in nine domains, including health, education, community vitality and time use. It is linked to a set of policy and programming tools and provides incentives for the government, NGOs and businesses of Bhutan to increase GNH.

Read the full paper

The Capability Approach and Well-Being Measurement for Public Policy’, by Sabina Alkire, was published in the OPHI working paper series in March 2015.

Find out more about the Alkire Foster method.

Further information on Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index

The Royal Government’s website for the Index,, provides further information, including a short guide and an extensive analysis of GNH.  These same documents can also be found on the OPHI website (short and extensive).

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Blog: Statisticians as Global Change Makers

With the Sustainable Development Goals due to be adopted by the UN in September, a new blog post by OPHI’s John Hammock looks at the integral role that statisticians will play in measuring their success over the next 15 years.

In particular, the blog discusses how statisticians might tackle the issue of measuring multidimensional poverty, a concept that has gained increasing recognition in recent years, emphasising that poverty is not just about income but encompasses many overlapping disadvantages that poor people can experience simultaneously – including, for example, health, education and living standards. It draws attention to the growing number of countries that have launched or are in the process of developing official national measures of multidimensional poverty.

John Hammock is Co-Founder and Director of Outreach at OPHI.

Read the full blog post

Statisticians as Global Change Makers‘ was published in Debating Development, a blog from the University of Oxford’s Department of International Development, on 9 April 2015.

The blog was also published in Spanish in Blog Humanum.

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Partner organisations call for child poverty indicators in the Sustainable Development Goals

Child poverty indicators should be included in the monitoring framework for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a coalition of partners working to end child poverty has argued.

In a briefing paper published on 31 March, the coalition, which includes OPHI, emphasised that indicators of monetary and multidimensional child poverty are needed to measure progress towards the proposed SDGs target to halve child poverty by 2030. It specifies that these should include:

  • Percentage of population living on less than $1.25 (PPP) per day, disaggregated by age to capture the child poverty rate;
  • Proportion of children (0-17) below the national poverty line;
  • Proportion of children (0-17) living in multidimensional poverty.

The briefing paper also recommends that tackling inequalities should be a central focus of the monitoring framework to ensure the poorest and most disadvantaged children are reached and no child is left behind.  It stresses that data collection for the most vulnerable children – who can be bypassed in surveys and programmes – must be improved.

Partner organisations in the coalition are: Overseas Development Institute, Save the Children, Institute of Development Studies, OPHI, Young Lives, Unicef, World Vision, Child Fund International, ATD Fourth World, FXB Center for Health & Human Rights, the African Child Policy Forum, SOS Children’s Villages, Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), UN Major Group for Children & Youth and BRAC.

Further information

Read the full brief: ‘Child poverty indicators to measure progress for the SDGs 

Read an article on the brief at the website: ‘Indicators to measure child poverty in the SDGs‘ by  Richard Morgan, Director of Child Poverty Global Initiative at Save the Children International, and David Stewart, Chief of Child Poverty and Social Protection at UNICEF, and co-chairs of the Coalition of Partners Working to End Child Poverty

Read a briefing paper on child poverty using the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index: ‘Are children among the poorest?‘ by OPHI Research Officer Ana Vaz

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Multidimensional living conditions index for Grenada identifies those most in need

New research published in the OPHI working paper series has proposed a multidimensional living conditions index for Grenada to identify the country’s most deprived households.

Researchers from the University of Essex, the Colombian Government and the University of Oxford constructed the Grenadian living conditions index (GLCI) to provide an effective targeting tool for poverty reduction policies, enabling resources to be focused on those most in need.

The GLCI prioritises quality of life and living conditions, rather than income or expenditure. Based on the Alkire Foster method and related methodologies, it provides a combined measure of 22 different indicators of poverty, which are grouped into seven dimensions:

  • demographic and health vulnerability;
  • childhood conditions;
  • household educational environment;
  • educative services access;
  • labour conditions;
  • resources at home; and
  • dwelling conditions and access to dwelling services.

To ensure that poverty reduction policies can be accurately targeted and measured, the proposed GLCI can be broken down to reveal how households are poor (which indicators they are deprived in) and the degree of deprivation they experience (how far they are from the determined poverty threshold), as well as showing changes in poverty over time.

The index can be tailored according to the focus and criteria of each social programme, for example, by enabling policymakers to change eligibility thresholds. It can also be compared to information on expenditure poverty to maximise precision in identifying which households are eligible for public assistance.

Read the full paper

Targeting Grenada’s Most Deprived Population: A Multidimensional Living Conditions Assessment’, by Yadira Diaz, Francisco Alejandro Espinoza, Yvonni Markaki and Lina Maria Sanchez-Cespedes, was published in the OPHI working paper series in March 2015.

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