Since 2018, the MPI estimates are based on a jointly revised methodology by UNDP and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). What are the differences with the 2014 specifications introduced by UNDP?

The MPI was first developed in 2010 by OPHI and UNDP for the UNDP’s flagship Human Development Reports. In February 2012 and March 2013, a critical review of the family of human development indices including the MPI was conducted during the two conferences on measuring human progress organized by UNDP. As an outcome of these critical reviews, a number of adjustments were made to the MPI. They were justified on the grounds of being more in line with the MDGs. At that time, OPHI continued publishing their own estimates using the original 2010 specifications. In 2018, OPHI and UNDP revised and unified the MPI methodology and the joint work is available at both OPHI’s and UNDP’s websites. The MPI numbers and analysis are expected to be updated at least once per year to include newly released data.

The new round of adjustments to the MPI introduced in 2018 were justified on the grounds of being more in line with the 2030 Agenda. Since 2018 the MPI is therefore a contribution to the implementation and monitoring of Sustainable Development Goal 1 which aims to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, and to the achievement of the Agenda’s ambition and fundamental principle of “Leaving No One Behind”.

The difference between the previous approaches stands in the definition of deprivations for some of the indicators.

  • Health dimension:
    - Nutrition: a household is deprived if there is a stunted or an underweight child (instead of only stunted). Because, if a child is stunted, the damage is mostly irreversible. As Anthony Lake of UNICEF described it: “That child will never learn, nor earn, as much as he or she could have if properly nourished in early life.” Adults above 20 years are considered malnourished if their BMI is below 18.5 kg/m2; for individuals aged 15-19 years age-specific BMI z scores, defined by WHO, are calculated.

    - Child mortality: a household is deprived if any child has died in the family in the five-year period preceding the survey. This captures recent improvements in child mortality. When the survey lacks information about the date of the child death, mortality that occurred anytime is used.

    In 2019 a methodological adjustment was applied to child mortality. Following the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child is defined as a person below the age of 18. With this new adjustment, the death of an offspring reported by a mother does not count as a deprivation if the death occurred when the son or daughter was above the age of 18. Previously, there was no age limit and child was understood as a son or daughter of any age.

  • Education dimension:
    - School attainment: a household is deprived if no member aged 10 years or older has completed at least six years of schooling. Six years is the duration of primary education in most countries, so this change reinforces SDG 4 “Quality education.”

    In 2020 we adjusted the years of schooling indicator by introducing a country-specific age cutoff: No household member of ages 'school entrance age + six' or older has completed six years of schooling.

    Previously, the age cutoff was 10 years, but this did not recognize the fact that by age 10 children do not normally complete 6 years of schooling. For example, if the official school entrance age is 6, a child would normally complete 6 years of schooling by age 12; therefore, children of ages 10 or 11 should be considered ineligible for years of schooling. If, as an exception, children of ages 10 or 11 completed 6 years of schooling, this is counted as an achievement. Note that this adjustment has been implemented since 2020 but it was not applied to previous estimates. Although this adjustment is conceptually better, the effect on the empirical estimates is minimal.

    - School attendance: a household is deprived if any school-aged child is not attending school up to the age at which he/she would complete class 8.

  • Standard of living:
    - Housing: a household is deprived if it has inadequate housing in at least one of the three: the floor is of natural materials or the roof or the walls are of rudimentary materials.

    - Asset ownership: a household is deprived if it does not own more than one of these assets: radio, TV, telephone, computer, animal cart, bicycle, motorbike, or refrigerator, and does not own a car or truck.

    - Electricity, improved sanitation, improved drinking water and cooking fuel remain the same.

Further details about the original MPI methodology from 2010 can be found in Alkire and Santos (2010)

Further details about the UNDP/HDRO revised methodology from 2014 can be found in Kovacevic and Calderon (2014)’s-multidimensional-poverty-index-methodology-paper-2014

Further details about the jointly revised methodology can be found in: Alkire and Jahan (2018)