The 2021 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

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Multidimensional Poverty Index 2021: Unmasking disparities by ethnicity, caste and gender 
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Multidimensional Poverty Index 2021 statistical data tables 1 and 2   

Multidimensional Poverty Index: Disaggregation by ethnic/racial/caste group 

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The 2021 MPI virtual launch event


Disparities in multidimensional poverty among ethnic groups are consistently high across many countries and in nine ethnic groups more than 90 percent of the population is trapped in poverty, according to new analysis on global multidimensional poverty released today.

The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative measures poverty by considering various deprivations experienced by people in their daily lives, including poor health, insufficient education and a low standard of living. Today’s report examines the level and composition of multidimensional poverty across 109 countries covering 5.9 billion people and presents an ethnicity/race/caste disaggregation for 41 countries with available information.

The report finds that, in some cases, disparities in multidimensional poverty across ethnic and racial groups are greater than disparities across geographical subnational regions. Indeed, when the MPI is disaggregated by ethnic group, the range in values is greater than that across all 109 countries and all other disaggregations tested.

It also shows how, within a country, multidimensional poverty among different ethnic groups can vary immensely. For example, the difference in the percentage of people who are multidimensionally poor across ethnic groups is more than 70 percentage points in Gabon and Nigeria.

In Latin America, indigenous peoples are among the poorest. For instance, in Bolivia indigenous communities account for about 44 percent of the population but represent 75 percent of multidimensionally poor people. The figures are also stark in India where five out of six multidimensionally poor people were from lower tribes or castes.

The multidimensional analysis also maps out next steps. The MPI combines the incidence and the intensity of poverty. The two poorest ethnic groups in Gambia - the Wollof and the Sarahule - have roughly the same MPI value, but their deprivations differ, suggesting different policy actions are needed to reduce multidimensional poverty.

An intrahousehold analysis of multidimensional poverty focused on gender is also included. Worldwide about two-thirds of multidimensionally poor people (836 million) live in households where no woman or girl completed at least six years of schooling. One-sixth of all multidimensionally poor people (215 million) live in households in which at least one boy or man has completed six or more years of schooling but no girl or woman has. The report also finds that women and girls living in multidimensional poverty are at higher risk of intimate partner violence.


Key findings

Worldwide, across 109 countries and 5.9 billion people:

  • 1.3 billion people are multidimensionally poor.
  • About half (644 million) are children under age 18.
  • Nearly 85 percent live in Sub-Saharan Africa (556 million) or South Asia (532 million).
  • More than 67 percent live in middle-income countries.

But what is the day-to-day reality of life for multidimensionally poor people? The data paint a grim picture:

  • 1 billion each are exposed to solid cooking fuels, inadequate sanitation and substandard housing.
  • 788 million live in a household with at least one undernourished person.
  • 568 million lack improved drinking water within a 30-minute roundtrip walk.


Annex: The dimensions, indicators, deprivation cutoffs, and weights of the global Multidimensional Poverty Index

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 at least 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.


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