Multidimensional Poverty Index presents new ways of measuring poverty

The idea that poverty can be measured by income alone has been sustained by international organizations including the World Bank to this very day. Numerous efforts were made in the recent years to provide new approaches to measure poverty that are more complex and multidimensional.

In July 2010, the Oxford University together with the UNDP through their joint program the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) have launched a new poverty indicator that gives a “multidimensional” approach and that, according to its creators, could help target development resources more effectively.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) complements a traditional focus on income to reflect the deprivations that a poor person faces all at once with respect to education, health and living standard. It uses 10 indicators to measure these three critical dimensions of poverty at the household level. These directly measured deprivations in health and educational outcomes as well as key services such as water, sanitation, and electricity reveal not only how many people are poor but also the composition of their poverty. As well, it reflects the intensity of poverty – the sum of weighted deprivations that each household faces at the same time.

This index shows all the deprivations that impact someone’s life at the same time, and this “picture” makes it possible for governments and other policymakers to understand the various sources of poverty for a region, population group, or nation and target their human development plans accordingly.

OPHI has just concluded a research across 104 developing countries, the first time multidimensional poverty is estimated using micro datasets (household surveys) for such a large number of countries which cover about 78 percent of the world’s population.

Results released in advance indicate that 1,700 million people in the world live in acute poverty, a figure that is between the $1.25/day and $2/day poverty rates. Yet it is no $1.5/day measure. The MPI captures direct failures in functioning that economist Amartya Sen argues should form the focal space for describing and reducing poverty. Find out more about the MPI at