Multidimensional Poverty Index

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What is the Multidimensional Poverty Index? 

The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is published by Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report. It aims to give a “multidimensional picture of people living in poverty.” [1] and measures poverty at the individual level in education, health and standard of living. The MPI is featured in the 20th Anniversary edition of the UNDP Human Development Report 2010 and has been updated every year since. The most recent Global MPI was updated in Winter 2014/2015 and now covers 110 countries in total, which are home to 78 per cent of the world’s population. Of this proportion, 30 per cent of people (1.6 billion) are identified as multidimensionally poor.

Measurement of poverty by the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index

The Global MPI uses 10 indicators to measure three dimensions of poverty at the household level: education, health and living standard in 104 developing countries. It also measures deprivations in access to water, sanitation, and electricity. The Global MPI also reflects the intensity of poverty with the sum of weighted deprivations that each household faces at the same time. Global Multidimensional Poverty Index Website

The Global MPI measures poverty by[2]

  • Showing all the deprivations that impact someone’s life at the same time
  • Identifing the poorest people
  • Examining which deprivations are most common in different regions and among different groups
  • Reflecting the results of effective policy interventions quickly
  • Integrating many different aspects of poverty related to the Millennium Development Goals into a single measure


What is multidimensional poverty?

Poverty is often defined by one-dimensional measures, such as income. Multidimensional poverty includes several factors such as "poor health, lack of education, inadequate living standard, lack of income, disempowerment, poor quality of work and threat from violence."[3]


Multidimensional poverty and missing dimensions

1. The Global Multidimensional poverty index (MPI):
1.1. The rational for the index
1.2. Definition
1.3. Data
1.4. Calculating the human development indices—graphical presentation
1.5. Related links
1.6. Constraints and limitations
1.7. Examples of national and regional applications
1.7.1 National innovations
1.7.2. Regional innovations

2. E-discussion
2.1. Phase I: what are the missing dimensions of poverty?
2.1.1. Employment
2.1.2. Empowerment
2.1.3. Physical safety
2.1.5. Psychological and subjective well-being
2.1.6. Other dimensions of poverty:
2.2. Phase II: What indicators can better capture the missing dimensions?
2.3 Phase III: In what ways can countries take forward this agenda?
2.4. References shared by contributors

This consolidated reply is an update of the result of a discussion to refine the instrument of measurement of poverty by taking into account the multidimensional aspect of poverty. Since the discussion took place, the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index was released and other variations of the same methodology applied in national contexts. This is a live document; we believe there is room for improvement and we invite you to join this conversation by adding your experiences with the measurement of multi-dimensional poverty.

Firstly, we present the methodology used to calculate the multidimensional poverty index and then present the e-discussion about the missing dimensions of poverty. The objective is to reflect the real deprivation that human beings suffer and to take into account each aspect that can affect their capabilities and choices. Nevertheless, an index still needs to be relatively simple, easy to interpret, and useful for comparisons over time and space.

The Global Multidimensional poverty index (MPI):

The rational for the index

A focus on deprivation is fundamental to human development. Poverty is multifaceted and thus multidimensional. The dimensions of poverty go far beyond inadequate income. It involves poor health and nutrition, low education and skills, inadequate livelihoods, bad housing conditions, social exclusion and lack of participation. Money-based measures are obviously important, but deprivations in other dimensions and their overlap also need to be considered, especially because households facing multiple deprivations are likely to be in worse situations than income poverty measures suggest.

The Global MPI was introduced in experimental way in the HDR 2010 and has been updated every year since then.

Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) Definition

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is a composite measure of the percentage of deprivations that the average person would experience if the deprivations of poor households were shared equally across the population. The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is a new measure designed to capture the severe deprivations that people face at the same time. The Global MPI reflects both the incidence of multidimensional deprivation, and its intensity – how many deprivations people experience at the same time. It can be used to create a comprehensive picture of people living in poverty, and permits comparisons both across countries, regions and the world and within countries by ethnic group, urban/rural location, as well as other key household and community characteristics. The Global MPI builds on recent advances in theory and data to present the first global measure of its kind, and offers a valuable complement to traditional income-based poverty measures.

The 2010 Human Development Report (HDR) estimated the Global MPI for 104 countries with a combined population of 5.2 billion (92 percent of the population in developing countries). According to the report, about 1.75 billion people in the 104 countries covered by the Global MPI—a third of their population — lived in multidimensional poverty — that is, with at least 30 percent of the indicators reflecting acute deprivation in health, education and standard of living. This exceeded the estimated 1.44 billion people in those countries who lived on $1.25 a day or less (though it was below the share who live on $2 or less).

Since then the Global MPI Winter 2014/2015 results cover 110 countries in total, which are home to 78 per cent of the world’s population. Of this proportion, 30 per cent of people (1.6 billion) are identified as multidimensionally poor. Using the January 2015 updates of the MPI released today, the study team looked at more than 230 regions of countries where multidimensional poverty is at least as high as the 25 poorest Least Developed Countries (LDCs), identified by the United Nations (Economic and Social Council). They found that nearly 60 per cent of the 768 million multi-dimensionally poor people in these subnational regions live in countries that are not classified as LDCs, and all but one non-LDC region were in countries classed as middle-income: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Namibia and the Republic of Congo.


The Global MPI is composed of ten indicators corresponding to same three dimensions as the Human Development Index: Education, Health and Standard of Living.

1. Health (each indicator weighted equally at 1/6)
- Child Mortality: If any child has died in the family
- Nutrition: If any adult or child in the family is malnourished.

2. Education (each indicator weighted equally at 1/6 )
- Years of Schooling (if no household member has completed 5 years of schooling)
- School Attendance (if any school-aged child is not attending school up to class 8)

3. Standard of Living (each of the six indicators weighted equally at 1/18)
- Electricity (no electricity is poor)
- Drinking water (MDG definitions)
- Sanitation (MDG definitions, including that toilet is not shared)
- Flooring (dirt/sand/dung are poor)
- Cooking Fuel (wood/charcoal/dung are poor)
- Assets (poor if do not own more than one of: radio, TV, telephone, bike, motorbike)

Each dimension is equally weighted; each indicator within a dimension is also equally weighted. A household is identified as multidimensionally poor if it is deprived in more than 30 per cent of the weighted indicators (some combination of two to six ‘indicators’, the number varies because the indicators carry different weights). The Global MPI of a country or region is the product of the proportion of poor people and the average number of deprivations that poor households face at the same time i.e. the average intensity of their poverty.

For more details:

Calculating the human development indices—graphical presentation

The Global MPI relies on three main datasets that are publicly available and comparable for most developing countries: the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS), and the World Health Survey (WHS).

Related links

• Components of the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index:
• Country data: h
• Technical notes:

Constraints and limitations

• Lack of data available: Because the measure requires that all data pertain to the same household, the options of dimensions for the measure were limited. For example, surveys that collect the information necessary to assess other important dimensions have insufficient data on work, empowerment and consumption. Better data are needed in such core areas as informal work, empowerment, safety from violence, and human relationships (social capital and respect).

• The indicators include both outputs (such as years of schooling) and inputs (such as cooking fuel) as well as one stock indicator (child mortality, which could reflect a death that was recent or long ago), because flow data are not available for all dimensions.

• The health data are relatively weak and overlook some groups’ deprivations especially for nutrition, though the patterns that emerge are plausible and familiar.

• In some cases careful judgments were needed to address missing data. But to be considered multidimensionally poor, households must be deprived in at least six standard of living indicators or in three standard of living indicators and one health or education indicator. This requirement makes the Global MPI less sensitive to minor inaccuracies.

• Intra-household inequalities may be severe, but these could not be reflected.

• While the Global MPI goes well beyond a headcount to include the intensity of poverty experienced, it does not measure inequality among the poor, although decompositions by group can be used to reveal group-based inequalities.

Examples of national and regional applications

National innovations

Mexico has been the first country to apply the Global MPI methodology to measure poverty defined as the sum of deprivation in both income and social rights. While income is still the main indicator for economic well-being, the social rights dimension includes indicators in six components: education, health, social security, housing, basic services, and food security. This methodology allows the identification of the total number of poor and the nature of their deprivations, the dimensions in which they suffer the most, and the people who are the most deprived in terms of both income and social rights (extreme multidimensional poverty – the red quadrant in the figure below).
The index can be calculated for population groups such as indigenous, youth, and presented at national, state or local level. The index disaggregation by group, geographical location or type of deprivation facilitates the evaluation of public policies

Colombia launched its national multidimensional poverty measure in 2011. The National Planning Department (DNP) designed a measure that includes: education, condition of children and youth, employment, health, and access to public services and housing conditions. Those 5 dimensions are defined according to 15 variables. This index was constructed according to the national social policy and in consultation with academic and international experts.

You can find out about how different countries have created and applied national multidimensional poverty indices here:

Regional innovations

The Europe and the CIS 2011 Human Development Report on social exclusion includes a multidimensional social exclusion index with a methodology also inspired by Alkire and Foster 2007 . You can find the details of this index here (pp.96-97). To allow comparison between the six countries of the survey, as the Global MPI suggests it, equal weights for each dimension were assumed for three different dimensions: economic exclusion, exclusion from social services, exclusion from participation in civic and social life and networks.

Although the Global MPI represents a step forward in complementing monetary poverty measures with multi-dimensional indicators, there are still dimensions which are difficult to capture through statistical indicators. The summary below was the result of a network discussion on how to identify the missing dimensions of poverty, how to measure them, and also how to adapt the methodology to a particular context.


This is a summary of the contributions received from the HDR network the individual contributions can be consulted following this link [add link/or attach document, we’ll sort it out in TW].

The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative in cooperation with the Human Development Report Office launched an e-discussion on the “missing dimensions” of poverty to tap into the expertise and experience of network members on poverty measurement. The discussion took place in three phases focused respectively on:

1. What are the missing dimensions of poverty?
2. What indicators can be used to capture these missing dimensions?
3. In what ways can countries take forward this agenda?

The consolidated reply below summarizes network contributions, including feedback to OPHI work and additional suggestions and experiences on the topic of measuring multidimensional poverty.

Although the Global MPI is still far from addressing all issues raised in this discussion, we hope that further applications of this and other methodologies will help us improve our empirical understanding of the multidimensional aspects poverty.

Phase I: what are the missing dimensions of poverty?

OPHI's work complements and adds to international household surveys such as the UNICEF Multiple-Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), World Bank Living Standard Measurement Survey (LSMS) and Core Welfare Indicators Questionnaire (CWIQ), and the USAID Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), all of which are conducted in many developing and transition countries. More information on OPHI's work on the Missing Dimensions of Poverty can be found here:

OPHI has identified five areas that matter to deprived people but for which internationally-comparable data is currently in short supply: employment quality, empowerment, physical safety, the ability to go about without shame, and psychological and subjective well-being. Most participants in this e-discussion endorsed the five proposed dimensions. For instance, it was noticed that the mere adoption of the MDGs in 2000 was a clear manifestation of the consensus among policy makers that poverty is a multidimensional problem characterised by a complex set of deprivations. (Shaza Joundi)


Employment as a dimension intends to cover both formal and informal employment, with particular attention to the quality of work, safety, and the access to basic social protection at work. Employment is crucial if it guarantees access to regular income to provide for the household’s needs. Contributors have noticed that the traditional one-dimensional approaches of US$ 1.25 a day (the poverty threshold adopted as the new international standard for extreme poverty since 2005) fails to draw attention to the real depth of how that amount is earned on a regular basis, and therefore does not allow understanding how the poor cope with multiple deprivations. Moreover, in addition to employment status, it is also important to capture the rate at which employment opportunities are being created and shared across the country; for example, many African countries recently experienced sustained economic growth, mostly due to increased prices of raw materials, which did not translate in enhanced job opportunities. Unemployment is particularly strong among the youth, which is a becoming a growing source of concern regarding human development but also political stability e.g. in Northern African countries. Beyond quantity, the quality of employment is fundamental to understand its impact on poverty, e.g. weighting the informal economy in the national accounts could reveal other facets of poverty. The contribution of domestic workers to the economy in not measured by national standards, but in some regions those workers (mainly females) account for about half of the working population. Other participants would prefer to maintain the link between employment and income to simplify complex surveys, e.g. questions related to the source of income already allow to observe different types of employment and their characteristics. (Michel Kabalisa, Sam I. Ibanda, Eugene Nkubito, Maxime Mbringa-Takama 1)
The issue of quality of work is also present in developed countries. The Eurofund’s theme in 2010 for the International Day for Poverty Eradication was 'From poverty to decent work: bridging the gap'. The initiative pays special attention to vulnerable groups, such as single parents, migrants, young adults, but it also shows that there is no social group is free of becoming poor quickly through over-indebetness. who can not suffer from over-indebtness.



Empowerment, or agency, is defined as the ability to advance goals one values. Contributors have highlighted the importance of this dimension in realms such as being aware of one’s own rights and of the tools to claim them, the capacity to define a vision of the future and to plan actions for its achievement, and the inclusion of the poor in participatory public spaces. The issue of empowerment is particularly important when it comes to women, ethic minorities and immigrant populations (including immigrant workers). (Sonia Almirón 1, Maxime Mbringa-Takama 1, Sueli Couto Rosa)

Physical safety

Physical safety, defined as security from violence to person and property (e.g. theft of goods and armed robbery), as well as perceptions of violence. Violence and the perception of violence are not only crucial, but also interlinked with other dimensions such as empowerment (especially in the case of women’s empowerment and domestic violence) and the ability to go about without shame. Moreover, insecurity prevents citizens from fulfilling their potential and it can deprive households of essential income. Physical safety is also closely associated with physical and mental health as well as a descent shelter. (Eugene Nkubito, Maxime Mbringa-Takama 1)


The ability to go about without shame, highlighting the need for dignity, respect and freedom from humiliation. Shame is a complex situation, which is interlinked with other dimensions such as ignorance, low education levels and unawareness of human rights. (Maxime Mbringa-Takama 1)
Moreover, it is necessary to understand the dominant moral and social values of each country and culture, which hinders international comparability. Nevertheless, as this article in the Guardian is stating, we cannot measure the degree of lack of dignity or respect if we are not able to identify the norms that define it. (What are the links between shame and poverty? Guardian, Aug. 2010)
The ability to go about without shame is also different by gender. In certain cultures, mothers tend to make more efforts to avoid their children from being victim of humiliation, whereas fathers feel loss of dignity and honor if they cannot provide money to their household. Furthermore, because of social exclusion and stigmatization, poor people tend to not declare themselves as poor. So they might be some issue during the survey process of identification if it is based on perceptions. (Strier, 2005 ).


Psychological well-being

Psychological and subjective well-being, to bring a richer perspective on people’s values, including perceptions of meaning, competences, relatedness, and autonomy that are often overlooked in “happiness” studies. The notion of values is also precious in defining how people perceive their existence vis-à-vis their community and their destiny. (Maxime Mbringa-Takama 1)

Participants in the discussion have highlighted the importance of considering gender as a cross-cutting element in all dimensions to identify different opportunities and constraints for men and women.
(Francisca Alvarez Pretelt, Antje Kraft)
We can also considerate the importance of age in the well-being. Children may be more affected by poverty because it will affect their opportunities in the future, as shown in this video about the situation of poor children in Great Britain. But poverty can also have specific connotations for the elderly (Subjective Well-being in the elderly population in China, Wang 2010). Taking into consideration the priorities expressed by the poor is always important in poverty analysis and in developing policies to fight poverty.


Other contributors have recommended enlarging the scope of the dimensions, considering Amartya Sen’s definition of capability as a separate dimension, rather than reflecting it in the others. It is crucial for poverty reduction strategies to address not only economic growth and redistribution, but also other dimensions of human poverty such as the expansion of education, removing discrimination and securing social justice (Shaza Joundi). Other potential dimensions to measure are:

Other dimensions of poverty

The dynamic dimension of poverty
(Anuradha Rajivan, TaÏb Diallo, Ahmed Driouchi, Eugene Nkubito, Fiona Bayat, Luz Maria Lopez Montaño)

It is important to understand and adequately measure dynamic aspects of poverty, such as: the intergenerational transmission of poverty, but also the different meaning of poverty for different generations within the same community; and the significant movements in and out poverty, compounded by factors such as life-cycle events, seasonality, illness/addiction, demographic growth as well as outside factors such as armed conflicts and climate change.
Poverty is generally a recurrent phenomenon (Walker and Tomlinson 2010); which should be analysed using a dynamic measure. This measure could depend on the duration of being in poverty and on the number of times an individual crosses the multidimensional poverty line.

Some aspects of mobility have direct implications for people’s opportunities. For example:
o Physical mobility can offer opportunities to escape poverty. Therefore, poverty can be characterized by limitations to physical mobility due to health problems, lack of knowledge, financial restrictions, or simply lack of adequate transportation.
o Social mobility or the opportunity to access social promotion is also relevant to evaluate the depth of poverty, as it is interlinked with another relevant aspect: inequality. This is also related to the concept of a “poverty trap”, which implies that people in similar situations (as measured by similar values for certain indicators) might have more or less opportunities to pull themselves out of poverty depending on other environmental circumstances (e.g. conflict or the marginalization of specific groups).

Other dynamic elements of poverty are those related to the special circumstances of:
o The livelihood of persons without official addresses, e.g. those who move to urban fringes and live there, often with continuing rural links.
o Deprivation among mobile populations
o Poverty among displaced populations, who may continue to live in “temporarily-long-term” special circumstances.

Moreover, often during crises and conflicts, parameters change so rapidly that it is realistically difficult to capture them in complex surveys.

The social and cultural dimensions of poverty
(Elisabeth Gotschi, Sam I. Ibanda, Simon
Magbenga, Ahmed Driouchi, Eugene Nkubito, Marcelo López Birra, Francisca Alvarez Pretelt,
Doley Tshering, Luz Maria Lopez Montaño)

Research on social capital has highlighted the need to take into consideration social aspects of interaction with an impact of poverty such as membership, family and feelings of belonging to a national, tribal, religious, faith, language or tradition group, which makes diversity central to the poverty discourse. Other neglected domains such as the expression of affection and recreation needs are also relevant in determining well-being. In addition to the inner value that people may attribute to these dimensions, social safety nets can play an important role in escaping poverty. An analysis of the various interfaces between individual-group-national-global levels of society could generate richer insights into the debate.

Moreover, there is an increasing recognition of the role of culture in poverty alleviation both for its instrumental value in generating income and in the way culture influences how poverty is perceived and the effectiveness of poverty reduction interventions. For example, culture might impact the economic sphere, as demonstrated by the role of a “saving culture” in promoting investment in the Asian emerging economies. Other contributors have compared a culture of “effort and work” with a culture privileging “short cuts” such as bribery and nepotism. Other elements of culture have an impact on our “conscience” and on the way we conceive societal progress.

Although contributors are aware of the difficulties in defining and measuring these subtle aspects of poverty, they advocate for measures which can help improve our understanding and promotion of culture, psychological well-being and community vitality.

OPHI notes that the module on psychological and subjective well-being includes questions on ‘meaning’ which are argued to be cross-culturally comparable indicators of what culture and faith provide people.

Access to collective Goods (Elisabeth Gotschi)

Access to collective goods can be necessary for a comprehensive assessment of poverty. These goods include, but they are not limited to:
o Natural resources: mechanisms to effectively govern the commons and prevent their exploitation or
o Sub-investment (reference to HDR 2007/8)
o Global peace: local instabilities can destabilize whole regions; acts of terrorism cultivate global fear and have an impact on individual perceptions of security and insecurity
o A stable macroeconomic environment: the recent crises linked to petrol and food prices, and to the financial markets demonstrate how interrelated markets are and how easily instability in one part of the world increases vulnerability and livelihoods somewhere else.
Poor people tend to be more sensitive to the natural and social environment surrounding them. (WRI 2005). That is true for both rural and urban populations. For example, in urban poor neighborhoods, playgrounds for children are often missing or unsafe (Strier, 2005 ).

The institutional dimension of poverty (Sam I. Ibanda, Sonia Almirón 1, Emanuel Buendia,
Michel Kabalisa, Shaza Joundi)

Institutions’ capacity and quality are among the major causes and consequences of poverty, therefore, poverty cannot be addressed successfully without tackling issues such as governance (including corporate governance), corruption, the rule of law and democracy. Democratic processes such as elections and public consultations are fundamental within the empowerment dimension listed above, as well as information and transparency of transactions, awareness of public issues and access to public documents. Contributors have suggested integrating weighted composite indices such as the Daniel Kaufmann Index and/or the Ibrahim Index into poverty measurement.

A key issue in this context is access to public services such as free legal aid, security and protection, which can eliminate uncertainty for the poor, facilitating access to economic, social and cultural rights. Within the same sphere, access to basic social services such as health, water, education, food, shelter and to productive resources such as land security, ancestral domains, livelihoods, markets and credit can make a difference in the livelihoods of the poor.

In all aspects listed above, access can be measured in terms of availability (presence or absence of), affordability (costs and economic capacity to access goods and services) and ability (physical and intellectual capacity of groups and individuals to access). In this context, contributors have highlighted the commonality between a multi-dimensional approach to poverty and the human rights-based approach, whereby the state is evaluated in terms of his capacity to perform its role of duty bearer providing respect, protection and fulfillment.

OPHI notes that the Ibrahim Index (which we have worked on) and others use data that are not drawn from household surveys (which is the focus of this discussion). A question for us is whether household surveys require additional information? Most surveys do include questions on access to public services.

Access to education

The lack of education is one of the factors that explain the dynamic of poverty. It disproportionally affects children of poor households and rural areas and deprives them of the opportunity to break through poverty.

Access to basic financing opportunities

The inability to access small financial grants or small insurance is an obstacle to break through the vicious circle of poverty.

Keeping it simple (Amie Gaye 1, Maxime Mbringa-Takama 1, Shaza Joundi)

Finally, participants highlighted the importance of safeguarding the simplicity of poverty measurement, expressing concerns about the numerous challenges in terms of resources and measurability, keeping in mind that many developing countries are facing constraints in terms of budgetary restrictions, badly functioning national statistical systems, lack of qualified human resources, and little operational capacity.
Furthermore, participatory poverty assessments have shown that poverty means different things to different people, therefore efforts should focus on simple measures of multidimensional poverty which can be adapted to country-specific contexts.

Another challenge is how to differentiate the poor from the non-poor: the co-realization approach (a person is classified poor if she suffers deprivation in any dimension) will tend to over-estimate the poor headcount; on the other hand, the union approach (a person has to be deprived in all dimensions to be classified poor) can under-estimate the poverty headcount. A suggested methodology to be developed is to assign different weights to different dimensions. An alternative widely used methodology is the ‘counting’ methodology which identifies a person as poor if they are deprived in a specific number of dimensions (such as 3, or 4 from a list).
Moreover, the situation is not binary (being poor/not poor), there is a continuum of situations, (The Distribution of Multidimensional Poverty in Mexico, Berenger et al, 2009).

It is of course important to keep an index simple for its application and comparisons, but for the moment, we still not include the intra-household distribution, which is an issue in the choice of unity of analysis (based on household or on individuals). See 1.6 in the CR or the limitations of the Global MPI presented by the OPHI.

Phase II: What indicators can better capture the missing dimensions?

For each dimension enumerated previously, OPHI has developed a brief module of questions to add to standard individual or household survey questionnaires. The modules provide indicators that meet the following criteria:
– Allow international comparability
– Reflect not only the instrumental but also the intrinsic aspect of each dimension
– Are policies relevant and can identify changes in dimensions over time
– Draw on experience with particular indicators to date (i.e. the aim was to include previously-fielded questions as much as possible)
– Collaborate with or support the suggestions of specialist groups also working to improve indicators, such as WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing) for informal employment, or the Human Security Report for violence.

A fuller description of the proposed indicators follows:

Employment indicators

Employment indicators assess: the formal-informal continuum; income from self-employment; the ability to cope with shocks to employment; occupational safety and health; under- and over-employment; multiple activities; perceptions of being valuably employed; and levels of discouraged unemployment. (In 2007 a paper by Lugo proposed Internationally Comparable Indicators of Employment. The 2009 modified version of this paper is available at

Empowerment indicators

Empowerment indicators assess: control over everyday decisions; household decision making; “autonomy” measures from psychology probing the motivation underlying domain-specific decisions; the extent to which individuals feel empowered to bring about change at both individual and community levels; and a personal ranking of one’s overall empowerment in relation to the past and to others in one’s community. (In 2007 a paper by Solava Ibrahim and Sabina Alkire proposed internationally comparable indicators for the measurement of Agency and Empowerment. The 2009 modified version of this paper, Survey module: Agency and Empowerment , is avalaible.

Physical safety indicators

Physical safety indicators assess the incidence and frequency of violence against property and person, as well as the perception of threats to security and safety. (Disprose 2007 proposed internationally comparable indicators of violence. The 2009 modified version of this paper, Survey module: physical safety and security, is available.

Shame indicators

The ability to go about without shame indicators assess: the stigma of poverty; shame proneness; the extent to which one has experienced respectful or unfair treatment; discrimination, its source and perceived motivation; and the accumulation of humiliating feelings over one’s lifetime. (Zavaleta 2007 proposed internationally comparable indicators for the ability to go about without shame. The 2009 modified version of this paper, Survey module: the ability to go without shame, is available.

Psychological and subjective wellbeing indicators

Psychological and subjective wellbeing indicators address two areas: a) perceptions of meaning in life, and basic psychological needs associated with its pursuit (autonomy, competence, relatedness); and b) subjective indicators, including “life satisfaction” (overall, relating to material aspects such as food, income, housing, and relating to a range of non-material aspects) and “happiness”. (Samman 2007 proposed internationally comparable indicators for psychological and subjective well-being. The 2009 modified version of this paper, Survey module: psychological and subjective well-being, is available.

These dimensions and indicators were presented not because they are definitive, but rather to spark debate and improvement based on country experiences and fieldwork. Network members provided their suggestions by sharing their country’s experiences or commenting on the presented indicators.

Based on the Argentine experience (Antonella Bonacina and Gabriela Catterberg), it was suggested to add indicators related to residential segregation to all proposed dimensions, considering that employment, empowerment and the ability to go about without shame are influenced by residential segregation processes in both a direct and an indirect manner. Residential segregation often generates stigmatization or isolation between different groups: on the one hand, people living outside a precarious settlement or neighborhood may have the perception that its inhabitants are violent criminals and be pessimistic about their chances of improvement; on the other hand, people living in those settlements can develop a feeling of inferiority and hopelessness regarding their personal/family chances for progress, which jeopardizes social mobility and the improvement of their capabilities. Residential segregation can be measured by the following indicators:
• Lack of access to basic infrastructures such as drinking water, roads, electricity and gas networks, or health care services, which are needed to enter in contact with the others, and to access new opportunities.
• Indicators that, by utilizing aggregated data, measure the impact of living in segregated areas on its residents’ education and employment achievements.
• Measures of the growth and magnitude of residential segregation:
- Residential segregation indices built on census data to identify aspects of the social structure that impact on the segregated growth of a territory, and that allow the analysis of transformations within the segregation process.
- Evolution of a residential area in two poles: a) closed urbanization (countries, closed neighborhoods) and b) precarious settlements, as measured by the number of territorial units, the urban surface they occupy, and the population residing in those areas.

Other suggestions (Maxime Mbringa-Takama 2, Sonia Almirón 2, Sayhan Aydınlıgil) to complement the proposed indicators include:

• A greater emphasis on educational opportunities at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, which impact a person’s empowerment and employment opportunities and her possibility to participate in public discussion.
• Opportunities to consult a doctor and to receive medical care.
• Indicators related to the increased (or decreased) applications to unemployment security and benefits, or other similar mechanisms that function as coping strategies for the poor in periods of crisis.
• Expand the indicators related to access to justice beyond criminal issues to include capability to deal with simple procedures related to food allowances, childcare, etc.
• Indicators of social integration and position in the social hierarchy usually related to earned income.
• The ability to formulate visions that can help making decisions (e.g. “does the family have a clear perception about its future?), which can signal different levels of empowerment
• Individual awareness (e.g. awareness of threats and capacity to react and respond and awareness of humiliating circumstances) which is fundamental to identify solutions.

Phase III: In what ways can countries take forward this agenda?

Participants in the e-discussion drew on country experience and practices to address three related issues concerning the practical application of the identified Missing Dimensions.


What policy relevant research questions we might answer from having access to this data?

(For example: Test whether higher quality employment promotes empowerment. Does shame of poverty result in reduced access to health care? To what extent are people who suffer psychological and subjective deprivation deprived in other areas?)

To specify a poverty measure, it is necessary to answer identification questions (which indicators to use and which threshold will define the boundary between poor and non-poor) and aggregation questions (how to synthesize information regarding deprived populations to determine the magnitude of poverty).
Usually, methodological choices are linked to the specific objectives of the various surveys (e.g. LSMS, an integral priority of the Dept Sustainability Analysis [DSA] program, Basic Well Being Indicators [QUIBB], House Budget Survey [HBS], etc.) and it is difficult to find consensus on the process to adopt. One way to overcome too much debate to focus on empirical results could be to establish a hierarchy among the 5 proposed dimensions based on country-level priorities (Youssouf Dioubaté).

Examples of key questions to be tested with this methodology are (Amie Gaye 2, Sonia Almirón 3,Youssouf Dioubaté):
• The extent to which people who suffer psychological deprivation are also affected by sociological poverty, which could be useful to develop more holistic approaches to poverty reduction.
• To which extent does better nutrition contribute to improved health and education?
• How much does the feeling of stigma of poverty limit citizens’ participation in public life and their integration in society? Can the shame of being poor, of living in a marginalized neighborhood (see previous reference to residential segregation), or of having attended school in a poor area affect a person’s capability to find a better employment? To what extent can shame limit people from attending places where they can obtain enhanced culture and education?
• How does social mobility affect psychological and physical health?
• How do negative characteristics generally associated with poor households (e.g. lack of human capital, above average size of the household, pronounced economic dependence, access to below average infrastructure, low participation in decision making at family and community level) interact with the identified domains such as empowerment, the ability to go about without shame, and psychological and subjective well-being? Which are the causes and which the consequences?

Besides helping to answer policy research questions, this methodology offers the opportunity to develop the capacity of local specialists and institutions that bring together local people, responding to the need to look at poverty alleviation from the community perspective and to focus on what really matters within the community. Although internationally comparable data can enhance our understanding of poverty, barriers to local development should be identified in the context of the local economy (Fayyaz Baqir).

Specific policies and programs that may benefit from the availability of data on these dimensions

More specifically: policies or programs that used "Missing Dimensions" data or which might benefit from incorporating these indicators; the role "Missing Dimensions" indicators might play in Monitoring and Evaluation; planning tools which might facilitate the use of the Missing Dimensions in policy design, monitoring and analysis.

Examples of policies that might benefit from multi-dimensional poverty measurement are those focused on expanding the common resource base and the poor’s access to natural resources either through co-management or joint management to sustain natural resources (e.g. UNDP in Bangladesh). This kind of intervention needs an in-depth knowledge of cultural practices of sharing and caring at the community level, and an understanding of people’s values, capabilities and aspirations that cannot be captured in monetary poverty measurements (Aminul Islam).

Another example is the Uganda Poverty Eradication Action Plan (UPEAP), the country’s medium term development framework with which the government enters into a memorandum of understanding for its implementation with local governments. Part of the local government budget is ring-fenced to address areas of poverty identified by the poor through participatory poverty assessments. Resources can be transferred from other areas to the agreed areas and not vice versa. Poor people and their institutions are involved in monitoring progress and tracking public expenditure to ensure that resources for poverty reduction are not diverted (Amie Gaye 2).

In Guinea, a socio-economic survey on poverty and access to healthcare was used to classify households in three categories: very poor or deprived, intermediate and non-poor. The concept of poverty in this case was a function of the professional situation of the head of the household, the degree of lack of privacy, the level of economic dependence, and the ownership of a car. Combining these elements with the employment status of the head of the household revealed that having a precarious and low paid job (self-employed with little capital or an unskilled salaried employee) was strongly correlated with deprivation (Youssouf Dioubaté).

The UNDP-supported Mongolia Poverty Mapping implemented by the Government of Mongolia is based on the 2000 Housing and Population Census and 2002/2003 LSMS conducted by the National Statistical Office in Mongolia. The poverty map permits the calculation of multi dimensional poverty indicators at various administrative and territorial levels of disaggregation and it is a useful statistical tool in poverty alleviation policy and programme targeting (Donljinsuren Jambal).

Ways in which we might further carry the agenda forward

OPHI is conducting the first national level tests of these indicators in Chile, after which data will be analyzed to assess its validity, value added, and the interconnections between variables and dimensions. The eventual goal is for these survey modules to be adopted by international organizations such as the World Bank, UNICEF and DHS as part of their standard household surveys.

To improve frequency of multi-dimensional data for monitoring purposes, the modules have to be integrated into the national household systems. However there is a need for standardization of questions to facilitate cross-country comparison to be balanced with country-specific priorities. The way forward also calls for enhanced dialogue between data producers and data users to set the frequency of data collection, and for advocacy to allocate more resources to data collection and analysis (Amie Gaye 2).

In terms of awareness raising, it would be important to involve NGOs, and people working in poverty issues in national institutions in the debate on the missing dimensions of poverty. Other possibilities include the organisation of virtual courses to familiarize interested people on the topic (Sonia Almirón 3).


References shared by contributors

Regional Human Development Report for Europe and CIS “Beyond Transition, Towards Inclusive Societies”

OPHI’s most up to date set of working papers can be downloaded at

Conceptual framework of a working proposal on local human development with citizenship rights in Brazil

Juan Pedro Mora, Proposition for comprehensive human development

Manfred A. Max-Neef, Antonio Elizalde, Martin Hopenhayn, Human Scale Development: Conception, Application and Further Reflections, Apex Press, 1991

Poverty in Focus, What is Poverty? Concepts and Measures, International Poverty Centre, December 2006.

Nussbaum and Sen, The Quality of Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993

Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) measures, including the UN Millennium Development Goals and other areas such as preservation and promotion of culture, good governance, time use with gender dimension, psychological well being, and community vitality.

Martin Ravaillon, "Issues in Measuring and Modeling Poverty", Economic Journal, Vol. 106,
September 1996, pp. 1328-44

Eleonora Nun y Daniela Trucco, Human Development Team, UNDP, Chile, Informe deSistematización de Evaluaciones Cualitativas del Programa Puente y Sistema de Protección Chile Solidario

Socio-economic survey on poverty and access to healthcare Guinea

Governance indicators

The Daniel Kaufmann Index (September 2010)

Daniel Kaufmann, Aart Kraay, and Massimo Mastruzzi (July 2009) Response to “What Do the Worldwide Governance Indicators Measure?”

The Ibrahim Index

International Poverty Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG),

Martin Ravallion(April 2010), Poverty Lines Across the World

Tonmoy Islam and James P Ziliak (April 2010), Program Evaluation Using Multidimensional Poverty Measures: Evidence from TUP (Targeting the Ultra poor program in Bangladesh)

Sabina Alkire and Maria Emma Santos (July 2010) UNDP Human Development Research Paper 2010/11, Acute Multidimensional Poverty: A New Index for Developing Countries

Quantitative Approaches to Multidimensional Poverty Measurement,

The many dimensions of poverty,

Thomas Pogge, Where the Line is Drawn. A Rejoinder to Ravallion One Pager # 69. October 2008.

Martin Ravallion, Global Poverty Reassessed: A Reply to Reddy One Pager # 66. September 2008. Spanish Portuguese

Sanjay G. Reddy, The New Global Poverty Estimates – Digging Deeper into a Hole One Pager # 65. September 2008. Spanish French

Francisco Rodríguez, An Empirical Test of the Poverty Traps Hypothesis Technical Paper # 4. August 2008.

Thomas Pogge, A Consistent Measure of Real Poverty: A Reply to Ravallion One Pager # 54. May 2008. Spanish Portuguese French
Martin Ravallion, Which Poverty Line? A Response to Reddy One Pager # 53. May 2008.
Spanish Portuguese French

Anwar Shaikh and Amr Ragab, The Vast Majority Income (VMI): A New Measure of Global Inequality Policy Research Brief # 7. May 2008.Spanish

Sanjay G. Reddy, Are Estimates of Poverty in Latin America Reliable? One Pager # 52. May 2008. Spanish Portuguese French

Rafael Perez Ribas and Ana Flávia, Distinguishing Chronic Poverty from Transient Poverty in Brazil: Developing a Model for Pseudo-Panel Data Working Paper # 36. April 2007.

Terry McKinley, What is poverty? Good Question One Pager # 26. December 2006.Spanish Portuguese

Dag Ehrenpreis, What is poverty? Concepts and measures Poverty In Focus # 9. December 2006.

Nanak Kakwani, What is Poverty? One Pager # 22. September 2006.
Spanish Portuguese French

Nanak Kakwani and Hyun H. Son, New Global Poverty Counts Working Paper # 29. September 2006.

Sanjay G. Reddy, Sujata Visaria and Muhammad Asali, Inter-country Comparisons of Poverty Based on a Capability Approach: An Empirical Exercise Working Paper # 27. August 2006.

Sanjay G. Reddy and Camelia Minoiu, Chinese Poverty: Assessing the Impact of Alternative Assumptions Working Paper # 25. July 2006.

Marcelo Medeiros, Poverty, inequality and redistribution: A methodology to define the rich Working Paper # 18. May 2006.

S. Subramanian, Headcount Poverty Comparisons One Pager # 18. November 2005. Spanish Portuguese French

Alejandro Grinspun, Poverty in the City. Poverty In Focus # 7. August 2005.

Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI)

The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) is an economic research centre that was established in 2007 within the Department of International Development at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

OPHI works towards "reducing poverty by ensuring that policy is grounded in people’s experiences and values." [4] The major goals are broadening poverty measurement, improving data on poverty, building capacity and impacting policy.


  1. Oxford Poverty Human Development Initiative Website
  2. Why is the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index useful? Further information
  3. OPHI Multidimensional poverty
  4. OPHI more information


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