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Understandings and Misunderstandings of Multidimensional Poverty Measurement

  • Sabina Alkire and James Foster

Multidimensional measures provide an alternative lens through which poverty may be viewed and understood. In recent work we have attempted to offer a practical approach to identifying the poor and measuring aggregate poverty (Alkire and Foster 2011). As this is quite a departure from traditional unidimensional and multidimensional poverty measurement – particularly with respect to the identification step – further elaboration may be warranted. In this paper we elucidate the strengths, limitations, and misunderstandings of multidimensional poverty measurement in order to clarify the debate and catalyse further research. We begin with general definitions of unidimensional and multidimensional methodologies for measuring poverty. We provide an intuitive description of our measurement approach, including a ‘dual cutoff’ identification step that views poverty as the state of being multiply deprived, and an aggregation step based on the traditional Foster Greer and Thorbecke (FGT) measures. We briefly discuss five characteristics of our methodology that are easily overlooked or mistaken and conclude with some brief remarks on the way forward.

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Paper provided by Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford in its series OPHI Working Papers with number ophiwp043.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Handle: RePEc:qeh:ophiwp:ophiwp043
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  1. Alkire, Sabina & Foster, James, 2011. "Counting and multidimensional poverty measurement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 476-487.
  2. Gaston Yalonetzky, 2011. "Conditions for the Most Robust Poverty Comparisons Using the Alkire-Foster Family of Measures," OPHI Working Papers ophiwp044b, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
  3. Kai-yuen Tsui, 2002. "Multidimensional poverty indices," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 69-93.
  4. Walter Bossert & Satya R. Chakravarty & Conchita D'Ambrosio, 2009. "Multidimensional poverty and material deprivation," Working Papers 129, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  5. Atkinson, A B, 1987. "On the Measurement of Poverty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(4), pages 749-64, July.
  6. Sen, Amartya, 1997. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292975, March.
  7. James Foster & Mark McGillivray & Suman Seth, 2011. "Composite Indices: Rank Robustness, Statistical Association and Redundancy," Working Papers 2011-19, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
  8. Duclos, Jean-Yves & Sahn, David & Younger, Stephen D., 2001. "Robust Multidimensional Poverty Comparisons," Cahiers de recherche 0115, Université Laval - Département d'économique.
  9. Ma. Casilda Lasso de la Vega, 2009. "Counting poverty orderings and deprivation curves," Working Papers 150, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  10. Christopher J. Bennett and Shabana Mitra, 2011. "Multidimensional Poverty: Measurement, Estimation, and Inference," OPHI Working Papers ophiwp047, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
  11. Koen DECANCQ & María Ana LUGO, 2010. "Weights in multidimensional indices of well-being: an overview," Center for Economic Studies - Discussion papers ces10.06, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën.
  12. Alkire, Sabina & Santos, María Emma, 2011. "Acute Multidimensional Poverty: A New Index for Developing Countries," Proceedings of the German Development Economics Conference, Berlin 2011 3, Verein für Socialpolitik, Research Committee Development Economics.
  13. Joseph Deutsch & Jacques Silber, 2005. "Measuring Multidimensional Poverty: An Empirical Comparison Of Various Approaches," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(1), pages 145-174, 03.
  14. Sabina Alkire & James Foster, 2010. "Designing the Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI)," Human Development Research Papers (2009 to present) HDRP-2010-28, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  15. Sabina Alkire, 2011. "Multidimensional Poverty and its Discontents," OPHI Working Papers ophiwp046, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
  16. Satya R. Chakravarty & Conchita D'Ambrosio, 2003. "The Measurement of Social Exclusion," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 364, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  17. Nicole Rippin, 2010. "Poverty Severity in a Multidimensional Framework: The Issue of Inequality between Dimensions," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 47, Courant Research Centre PEG.
  18. François Bourguignon & Satya Chakravarty, 2003. "The Measurement of Multidimensional Poverty," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 25-49, April.
  19. Gaston Yalonetzky, 2013. "Stochastic Dominance with Ordinal Variables: Conditions and a Test," Econometric Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(1), pages 126-163, January.
  20. Gordon Anderson, 2008. "The empirical assessment of multidimensional welfare, inequality and poverty: Sample weighted multivariate generalizations of the Kolmogorov–Smirnov two sample tests for stochastic dominance," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 6(1), pages 73-87, March.
  21. Ravallion, Martin, 2010. "Mashup indices of development," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5432, The World Bank.
  22. Sen, Amartya K, 1976. "Poverty: An Ordinal Approach to Measurement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(2), pages 219-31, March.
  23. A. Atkinson, 2003. "Multidimensional Deprivation: Contrasting Social Welfare and Counting Approaches," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 51-65, April.
  24. Foster, James & Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1984. "A Class of Decomposable Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 761-66, May.
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