The 2020 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

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Multidimensional Poverty Index 2020: Charting pathways out of multidimensional poverty: Achieving the SDGs 

Multidimensional Poverty Index 2020 statistical data tables 1 and 2   

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HDR 2020 technical note 5 - MPI  

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The 2020 MPI virtual launch event

The address delivered by Prince Clem Ikanade Agba of Nigeria at the virtual launch event  


The 2020 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) data and publication "Charting pathways out of multidimensional poverty: Achieving the SDGs" released on 16 July 2020 by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at the University of Oxford and the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme. The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) measures the complexities of poor people’s lives, individually and collectively, each year. This report focuses on how multidimensional poverty has declined. It provides a comprehensive picture of global trends in multidimensional poverty, covering 5 billion people. It probes patterns between and within countries and by indicator, showcasing different ways of making progress. Together with data on the $1.90 a day poverty rate, the trends monitor global poverty in different forms.

The COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in the midst of this analysis. While data are not yet available to measure the rise of global poverty after the pandemic, simulations based on different scenarios suggest that, if unaddressed, progress across 70 developing countries could be set back 3–10 years.

It is 10 years before 2030, the due date of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose first goal is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. The MPI provides a comprehensive and in-depth picture of global poverty – in all its dimensions – and monitors progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 – to end poverty in all its forms. It also provides policymakers with the data to respond to the call of Target 1.2, which is to ‘reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women, and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definition'. By detailing the connections between the MPI and other poverty-related SDGs, the report highlights how the lives of multidimensionally poor people are precarious in ways that extend beyond the MPI’s 10 component indicators.


Key findings

The global multidimensional poverty index

  • Across 107 developing countries, 1.3 billion people—22 percent—live in multidimensional poverty.1
  • Children show higher rates of multidimensional poverty: half of multidimensionally poor people (644 million) are children under age 18. One in three children is poor compared with one in six adults.
  • About 84.3 percent of multidimensionally poor people live in Sub-Saharan Africa (558 million) and South Asia (530 million).
  • 67 percent of multidimensionally poor people are in middle-income countries, where the incidence of multidimensional poverty ranges from 0 percent to 57 percent nationally and from 0 percent to 91 percent sub nationally.
  • Every multidimensionally poor person is being left behind in a critical mass of indicators. For example, 803 million multidimensionally poor people live in a household where someone is undernourished, 476 million have an out-of-school child at home, 1.2 billion lack access to clean cooking fuel, 687 million lack electricity and 1.03 billion have substandard housing materials.
  • 107 million multidimensionally poor people are age 60 or older—a particularly importantly figure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 65 countries reduced their global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) value significantly in absolute terms. Those countries are home to 96 percent of the population of the 75 countries studied for poverty trends. The fastest, Sierra Leone (2013–2017), did so during the Ebola epidemic.
  • Four countries halved their MPI value. India (2005/2006–2015/2016) did so nationally and among children and had the biggest reduction in the number of multidimensionally poor people (273 million). Ten countries, including China, came close to halving their MPI value.2
  • In nearly a third of the countries studied, either there was no reduction in multidimensional poverty for children, or the MPI value
  • The countries with the fastest reduction in MPI value in absolute terms were Sierra Leone, Mauritania and Liberia, followed by Timor-Leste, Guinea and Rwanda. North Macedonia had the fastest relative poverty reduction, followed by China, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Turkmenistan and Mongolia. Each of these countries cut its original MPI value by at least 12 percent a year.
  • In 14 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of multidimensionally poor people increased, even though their MPI value decreased, because of population growth.
  • How countries reduced their MPI value varies by indicator and by subnational region. Twenty countries significantly reduced deprivations for every indicator. Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Mauritania had pro-poor reductions in subnational regions.
  • Multidimensional poverty trends do not match monetary poverty trends, suggesting different drivers.
  • Charting trends in multidimensional and monetary poverty measures and using global data and national statistics, as Atkinson (2019) proposed, provides an overall picture of a country’s poverty situation.
  • Before the pandemic 47 countries were on track to halve poverty between 2015 and 2030, if observed trends continued. But 18 countries, including some of the poorest, were off track.


The sustainable development goals and the global multidimensional poverty index

  • Of the 1.3 billion multidimensionally poor people, 82.3 percent are deprived in at least five indicators simultaneously.
  • 71 percent of the 5.9 billion people covered experience at least one deprivation; however, the average number of deprivations they experience is five.
  • There is a negative, moderate but statistically significant correlation between the incidence of multidimensional poverty and the coverage of three doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) vaccine. Some of the poorest countries (Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, South Sudan) vaccinate less than half of surviving infants with the DTP3 vaccine.
  • In Nigeria, which has one of the lowest percentages of DTP3 coverage globally, the percentage of people who are poor and deprived in child mortality is the highest among comparator countries Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Pakistan. This suggests that child deaths can be prevented and multidimensional poverty reduced by widespread immunization programmes.
  • Multidimensionally poor people have less access to vaccinations: in the four countries studied, the percentage of people living with a child who did not receive the third dose of the DPT-HepB-Hib vaccine3 is higher among multidimensionally poor people and people vulnerable to multidimensional poverty than among non-poor people.
  • Sub-Saharan African countries have the highest percentages of people who are multidimensionally poor and deprived in years of schooling (Niger, Burkina Faso, South Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia) and school attendance (South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mali).
  • In Haiti, with the highest percentage of people who are multidimensionally poor and deprived in years of schooling in Latin American and the Caribbean (22.8 percent), rural women face more disadvantage than their male counterparts, and the differences by sex are higher (by about 2 years) among the non-poor and vulnerable groups.
  • 84.2 percent of multidimensionally poor people live in rural areas, where they are more vulnerable to environmental shocks.
  • In every developing region the proportion of people who are multidimensionally poor is higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa 71.9 percent of people in rural areas (466 million people) are multidimensionally poor compared with 25.2 percent (92 million people) in urban areas.
  • In South Asia 37.6 percent of people in rural areas (465 million people) are multidimensionally poor compared with 11.3 percent (65 million people) in urban areas.
  • Deprivation in access to clean cooking fuel persists worldwide: 20.4 percent of people in the developing countries covered by the MPI are multidimensionally poor and lack access to clean cooking fuel.
  • Deprivation in access to clean cooking fuel among poor people in rural areas and urban areas in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as in rural areas in South Asia, the Arab States and Latin America and the Caribbean requires urgent attention.
  • Environmental deprivations are most acute in Sub-Saharan Africa: at least 53.9 percent of the population (547 million people) is multidimensionally poor and faces at least one environmental deprivation. Environmental deprivations are also high in South Asia: at least 26.8 percent of the population (486 million people) is multidimensionally poor and lacks access to at least one of the three environment indicators.
  • There is a strong positive association between employment in agriculture and multidimensional poverty, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Agricultural employment may not help reduce poverty in these countries without additional pro-poor policy interventions.

1. All population aggregates in this report use 2018 population data from UNDESA (2019), unless otherwise indicated.
2. Although these countries’ MPI point estimates were halved, there was not sufficient evidence of such a reduction at the 95 percent confidence level.
3. This refers to the pentavalent vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus (DPT); hepatitis B (HepB); and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).


2020 MPI: dimensions, indicators, deprivation cutoffs, and weights

The MPI looks beyond income to understand how people experience poverty in multiple and simultaneous ways. It identifies how people are being left behind across three key dimensions: health, education and standard of living, comprising 10 indicators. People who experience deprivation in at least one third of these weighted indicators fall into the category of multidimensionally poor.

Dimensions of Poverty Indicator Deprived if living in the household where… Weight
Health Nutrition Any adult under 70 years of age or any child for whom there is nutritional information is undernourished.1 1/6
Child mortality Any child under the age of 18 years has died in the family in the five-year period preceding the survey.2,3 1/6
Education Years of schooling No household member aged ‘school entrance age + six4 years or older has completed six years of schooling. 1/6
School attendance Any school-aged child is not attending school up to the age at which he/she would complete class eight.5 1/6
Standard of living Cooking Fuel The household cooks with dung, wood, charcoal or coal. 1/18
Sanitation The household’s sanitation facility is not improved (according to SDG guidelines) or it is improved but shared with other households.6 1/18
Drinking Water The household does not have access to improved drinking water (according to SDG guidelines) or improved drinking water is at least a 30-minute walk from home, round trip.7 1/18
Electricity The household has no electricity.8 1/18
Housing At least one of the three housing materials for roof, walls and floor are inadequate: the floor is of natural materials and/or the roof and/or walls are of natural or rudimentary materials.9 1/18
Assets The household does not own more than one of these assets: radio, television, telephone, computer, animal cart, bicycle, motorbike or refrigerator, and does not own a car or truck.10 1/18



1. Adults 19 to 70 years of age (229 to 840 months) are considered undernourished if their Body Mass Index (BMI) is below 18.5 kg/m2. Those 5 to 19 years (61 to 228 months) are identified as undernourished if their age-specific BMI values are below minus two standard deviations from the median of the reference population (https://www.who.int/growthref/en/). In the majority of the countries, BMI-for-age covered people aged 15 to 19 years, as anthropometric data was only available for this age group; if other data were available, BMI-for-age was applied for all individuals 5 to 19 years. Children under 5 years (60 months and under) are considered undernourished if their z-score for either height-for-age (stunting) or weight-for-age (underweight) is below minus two standard deviations from the median of the reference population (https://www.who.int/childgrowth/software/en/). Nutritional information is not provided for households without members eligible for measurement, these households are assumed to be not deprived in this indicator.
2. All reported deaths are used if the date of child’s death is not known.
3. Child mortality information is typically collected from women of reproductive ages 15-49 years. Households without women of such ages do not provide information about child’s deaths and are assumed to be not deprived in this indicator.
4. This country-specific age cutoff was introduced in 2020. Previously, the age cutoff was 10 years which did not recognize the fact that by age 10 children do not normally complete 6 years of schooling.
5. Source for official entrance age to primary school: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Institute for Statistics database. Education systems [UIS, http://data.uis.unesco.org/?ReportId=163].
6. A household is considered to have access to improved sanitation if it has some type of flush toilet or latrine, or ventilated improved pit or composting toilet, provided that they are not shared. If the survey report uses other definitions of improved sanitation, we follow the survey report.
7. A household has access to improved drinking water if the water source is any of the following types: piped water, public tap, borehole or pump, protected well, protected spring or rainwater, and it is within 30 minutes’ walk (round trip). If the survey report uses other definitions of improved drinking water, we follow the survey report.
8. A few countries do not collect data on electricity because of 100% coverage. In such cases, we identify all households in the country as non-deprived in electricity.
9. A household is considered deprived if the dwelling’s floor is made of mud/clay/earth, sand or dung; or if the dwelling has no roof or walls or if either the roof or walls are constructed using natural materials such as cane, palm/trunks, sod/mud, dirt, grass/reeds, thatch, bamboo, sticks or rudimentary materials such as carton, plastic/ polythene sheeting, bamboo with mud/stone with mud, loosely packed stones, uncovered adobe, raw/reused wood, plywood, cardboard, unburnt brick or canvas/tent.
10. Television (TV) includes smart TV and black and white TV, telephone includes cell phones, computer includes tablets and laptops, and refrigerator includes freezers.


The Human Development Report Office extends its sincere gratitude to the Republic of Korea for its financial support for the publication of the 2020 Multidimensional Poverty Index.


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