Multidimensional Poverty Index

Multidimensional Poverty Indices use a range of indicators to calculate a summary poverty figure for a given population, in which a larger figure indicates a higher level of poverty. This figure considers both the proportion of the population that is deemed poor, and the 'breadth' of poverty experienced by these 'poor' households, following the Alkire & Foster 'counting method'.[1] The method was developed following increased criticism of monetary and consumption based poverty measures, seeking to capture the deprivations in non-monetary factors that contribute towards well-being. While there is a standard set of indicators, dimensions, cutoffs & thresholds used for a 'Global MPI',[2] the method is flexible and there are many examples of poverty studies that modify it to best suit their environment. The methodology has been mainly, but not exclusively,[3] applied in developing countries.

The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) was developed in 2010 by the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Programme[4] and uses health, education and standard of living indicators to determine the degree of poverty experienced by a population. It has since been used to measure acute poverty across over 100 developing countries. The Global MPI is released annually by OPHI and the results published on its website. It replaced the Human Poverty Index.

MPI Headcount in West Africa

Multidimensional Poverty Indices typically use the household as their unit of analysis, though this is not an absolute requirement.[5] A household is deprived for a given indicator if they fail to satisfy a given 'cutoff' (e.g. having at least one adult member with at least 6 years of education). A household is assigned a 'deprivation score' determined by the number of indicators they are deprived in and the 'weights' assigned to those indicators. Each dimension (Health, Education, Standard of Living, etc.) is typically given an equal weighting, and each indicator within the dimension is also typically weighted equally. If this household deprivation score exceeds a given threshold (e.g. 1/3) then a household is considered to be 'multiply deprived', or simply 'poor'. The final 'MPI score' (or 'Adjusted Headcount Ratio') is determined by the proportion of households deemed 'poor', multiplied by the average deprivation score of 'poor' households.[5]

MPI advocates state that the method 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. MPIs are useful as an analytical tool to identify the most vulnerable people - the poorest among the poor, revealing poverty patterns within countries and over time, enabling policy makers to target resources and design policies more effectively.[5] Critics of this methodology have pointed out that changes to cutoffs and thresholds, as well as the indicators included and weightings attributed to them can change MPI scores and the resulting poverty evaluation.[6][7]

Dimensions and indicators


The Global MPI uses three standard dimensions: Health; Education; Standard of Living. These mirror the Human Development Index.

Multidimensional Poverty Indices used for purposes other than global comparison have sometimes used different dimensions, including income and consumption.

Indicators and cutoffs

The Global MPI uses the following ten indicators with the following cutoffs.[8][9]

Dimension Indicators Deprivation Cutoffs
  • Child Mortality
  • Nutrition
  • Deprived if any child has died in the family
  • Derpived if any adult or child, for whom there is nutritional information, is underweight
  • Years of schooling
  • School attendance
  • Deprived if no household member has completed six years of schooling
  • Deprived if any school-aged child is not attending school up to class 8
Living Standards
  • Cooking fuel
  • Sanitation
  • Drinking Water
  • Electricity
  • Housing
  • Assets
  • Deprived if the household cooks with dung, wood or charcoal
  • Deprived if the household's sanitation facility is not improved (according to MDG guidelines), or it is improved but shared with other households
  • Deprived if the household does not have access to safe drinking water (according to MDG guidelines) or safe drinking water is more than a 30-minute walk from home roundtrip
  • Deprived if the household has no electricity
  • Deprived if the household has a dirt floor
  • Deprived if the household does not own more than one of: radio, TV, telephone, bike, motorbike or refrigerator and does not own a car or truck

The indicators selected for other MPI oriented studies vary according to availability of data and the context,[10] as well as the theoretical considerations of the researchers.[11]