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Reference: Sabina Alkire, (2011). Multidimensional poverty and its discontents.Citable link to this page:


Multidimensional poverty and its discontents Subtitle: OPHI working paper no. 46

Abstract: More data on non-income dimensions of poverty are available than at any previous time in history. Alongside this, multidimensional measurement methodologies have advanced considerably in the past fifteen years. These advances together have created new possibilities to measure multidimensional poverty at the local, national and international level. Yet the fact that overall measures can be constructed does not mean that they will necessarily add value. This paper focuses on the question of when, how and why certain multidimensional poverty measures add value, sketches the limits of the contribution, and introduces a set of standing questions. The key value-added of a rigorously implemented multidimensional poverty index is that it conveys additional information not captured in single-dimensional measures (or in a dashboard) on the joint distribution of disadvantage and the composition of poverty. It also provides a consistent account of the overall change in multidimensional poverty across time and space. The paper discusses the joint distribution approach to multidimensional poverty measurement and presents one class of poverty measures within this approach. It then introduces one recently implemented measure within this family: the 104-country Multidimensional Poverty Index 2010 and uses concrete examples to explain its construction further. For example, without weights one can only identify the multidimensionally poor by the union or the intersection approaches; by these approaches the 2010 MPI would have identified an average of 58% or 0% of people across the 104 countries as poor. It also shows how to ‘unfold’ the MPI by sub-group or dimension, and also by intensity – because similar ‘intensities’ of poverty can conceal different distributions of intensity among the poor. Pointing out the added value of multidimensional poverty indexes is not to suggest that single-dimensional measures be abandoned but rather supplemented. Investing further in multidimensional measures has the potential to generate significant advances in understanding and useful policy tools.

Publication status:PublishedPeer Review status:Reviewed (other)Version:Publisher's version Funder: UNDP   Funder: Department for International Development   Funder: Economic and Social Research Council   Funder: Robertson Foundation   Funder: Doris Oliver Foundation   Notes:Copyright © Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative 2011. This publication is copyright, however it may be reproduced without fee for teaching or non-profit purposes, but not for resale. Formal permission is required for all such uses, and will normally be granted immediately. For copying in any other circumstances, or for re-use in other publications, or for translation or adaptation, prior written permission must be obtained from OPHI and may be subject to a fee.

Bibliographic Details

Publisher: Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI)

Publisher Website:

Issue Date: 2011

Copyright Date: 2011 Identifiers

Issn: 2040-8188

Isbn: 978-1-907194-32-0

Urn: uuid:9da7988f-48c8-4ec8-88d6-8c4c768b9d68 Item Description

Type: Working/Discussion paper;

Language: en

Version: Publisher's versionKeywords: poverty measurement multidimensional poverty identification poverty indices FGT measures joint distribution ophi Tiny URL: ora:9458


Autor: Sabina Alkire - institutionUniversity of Oxford facultySSD, Queen Elizabeth House, Department of In



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