Launched today, the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2014 (MPI) is designed to be a comprehensive measure of acute individual poverty across over 100 developing countries. Developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), since 2010 it has been published in the UNDP’s flagship Human Development Report. The MPI is said to be complementary to traditional income-based measures of poverty, capturing scarcities people face in terms of education, health and living standards.
The complete set of indicators includes nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling, school attendance, cooking fuel, sanitation, water, electricity, floor and assets. If an individual is deficient in a third or more of these (weighted) indicators then they are defined as poor. The severity of poverty being a measure of the number of indicators for which they are experiencing deprivation. Income is not included as an indicator due to data deficiencies. The datasets that inform the MPI include the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS), and the World Health Survey (WHS).
The MPI can be used to compare between countries and within countries by ethnic group, location, and other key household and community characteristics. Thus the MPI is a tool for identifying the most vulnerable people, for understanding the drivers of poverty and to aid policy makers target resources and design effective poverty eradication policies. Case studies reveal the translation of measures of poverty into practical action, for example, Mexico’s poverty targeting programme and Colombia’s poverty reduction strategy are informed by nationally adapted MPIs.
The MPI suffers several limitations, however. Firstly data constraints and, in particular, weak data on health and nutrition. Estimates of poverty are based on publicly available data and cover various years between 2002 and 2011, which limits direct cross-country comparability. Secondly, the indicator fails to capture both intra-household poverty and inequality among the poor, both of which may be severe. Finally as with all development indicators some level of subjective thresholds are set, which define individuals as poor or not. In this case they are aggregated across a variety of indicators meaning inaccuracies may be more difficult to detect. That said OPHI presents a compelling argument for the use of multidimensional poverty measures.
The MPI score reflects both the incidence or headcount ratio of poverty and the average intensity of their poverty. Thus the MPI is a calculation of the incidence of poverty multiplied by the average intensity across the poor. The countries with the top five scores this year are Niger, Ethiopia, Mali, Burkina Faso and Somalia. Indeed the top 16 countries all occur in sub-Saharan Africa. More information on this year’s results can be accessed through the MPI Interactive Databank.
OPHI have also tried to not only identify the poor but to learn about some of their lives and the challenges they face. Some of their stories are captured in case studies from around the world.
The global MPI was launched today at an event titled ‘Tackling Poverty: How multidimensional poverty measurement reveals who is poor, how they are poor and where poverty has fallen‘, held at the Overseas Development Institute. The 2014 Human Development Report, Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience will be launched in Tokyo on 24 July 2014. Ahead of the #hdr2014 global launch, a series of HD Live online chats will occur.