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Multidimensional Poverty

Most countries of the world define poverty by income. Yet poor people themselves define their poverty much more broadly, to include lack of education, health, housing, empowerment, humiliation, employment, personal security and more. No one indicator, such as income, is uniquely able to capture the multiple aspects that contribute to poverty.

Multidimensional poverty encompasses a range of deprivations that a household may suffer. The number of indicators and specific indicators used depend on the purpose of the measure. Common purposes include national poverty measures that reflect changes over time, targeting of services or conditional cash transfers and monitoring and evaluation.

At a glance, multidimensional measures present an integrated view of the situation. We can also examine poverty by population group, or study the composition of deprivation for different groups. Multidimensional metrics are rigorous, easy to use, flexible, and adaptable to different contexts.

OPHI has developed and applied measures and tests of multidimensional poverty, wellbeing, chronic poverty and equality of opportunity.

Alkire Foster Method

Sabina Alkire and James Foster have created a new method for measuring multidimensional poverty. It identifies who is poor by considering the intensity of deprivations they suffer, and includes an aggregation method. The method is flexible and can be applied to measure poverty or wellbeing, target services or conditional cash transfers and for monitoring and evaluation. Different dimensions (e.g. education) and indicators (e.g. how many years of education of person has) can be chosen depending on the society and situation.

For information on all OPHI’s measures and tests of multidimensional poverty, wellbeing, chronic poverty and equality of opportunity, see OPHI’s Working Paper Series. For an introduction to this research theme, read OPHI’s colourful poster on multidimensional poverty.

The Alkire and Foster method has been adopted by national governments. Read more about the policy uptakes of OPHI’s work.

The Alkire and Foster method has been applied to data in different countries and regions, and to different problems, including governance and quality of education. Read more about the research applications of OPHI’s methodologies.

New briefing on how the method can be used to measure multidimensional deprivations and living conditions based on survey data.