Frequently Asked Questions - Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) identifies multiple deprivations at the individual level in health,
education and standard of living. It uses micro data from household surveys, and—unlike the Inequalityadjusted
Human Development Index—all the indicators needed to construct the measure must come from
the same survey. Each person in a given household is classified as poor or non-poor depending on the
number of deprivations his or her household experiences. This data are then aggregated into the national
measure of poverty.
The MPI reflects both the prevalence of multidimensional deprivation, and its intensity—how many
deprivations people experience at the same time. It 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 or rural location, as well as other key household and community
characteristics. The MPI builds on recent advances in theory and data to present the first global measure
of its kind, and offers a valuable complement to income-based poverty measures. The 2013 Human
Development Report (HDR) presents estimates for 104 countries with a combined population of 5.4 billion
(76% of the world total). About 1.6 billion people in the countries covered—30% of their entire
population—lived in multidimensional poverty between 2002 and 2011.

The MPI identifies overlapping deprivations at the household level across the same three dimensions as
the Human Development Index (living standards, health, and education) and shows the average number
of poor people and deprivations with which poor households contend. For details see Alkire and Santos
(2010).

The MPI replaced the HPI, which was published from 1997 to 2009. Pioneering in its day, the HPI used
country averages to reflect aggregate deprivations in health, education, and standard of living. It could not
identify specific individuals, households or larger groups of people as jointly deprived. The MPI addresses
this shortcoming by capturing how many people experience overlapping deprivations (prevalence) and
how many deprivations they face on average (intensity). The MPI can be broken down by indicator to
show how the composition of multidimensional poverty changes for different regions, ethnic groups and
so on—with useful implications for policy.

One deprivation alone may not represent poverty. The MPI requires a household to be deprived in
multiple indicators at the same time. A person is multidimensionally poor if the weighted indicators in
which he or she is deprived add up to at least 33%.

We could not include income due to data constraints. Income poverty data come from different surveys,
and these surveys often do not have information on health and nutrition. For most countries we are not
able to identify whether the same people are income poor and also deprived in all the MPI indicators so
could not include income.

We could not include empowerment due to data constraints. The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS
surveys) collect data on women’s’ empowerment for some countries, but not every DHS survey includes
empowerment, and the other surveys do not have these data. Data on men’s empowerment or political
freedom are missing.

The MPI relies on three main databases that are publicly available and comparable for most developing
countries: the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS), and
the World Health Survey (WHS). [See list of surveys included for the 2012 Estimation]

We could not include other countries due to data constraints. Comparable data on each of the indicators
were not available for other developing nations. There was also a deliberate effort not to use data from
surveys conducted earlier than 2002.

The MPI relies on the most recent and reliable data available since 2002. The difference in dates limits
direct cross-country comparisons, as circumstances may have improved, or deteriorated, in the
intervening years. This is the reason why we do not rank countries based on MPI value. This year we
have grouped countries into two categories—those with estimates based in surveys conducted between
2007 and 2011 in one group and those 2002 to 2006 in another.

The MPI complements income poverty measures. It measures various deprivations directly. In practice,
although there is a clear overall relationship between MPI and $1.25 per day poverty, the estimates do
differ for many countries. This is a topic for further research, but some possibilities can include provision
of public services, as well as different abilities to convert income into outcomes such as good nutrition.

The MPI, like the $1.25 per day line, is a globally comparable measure of poverty. It measures acute
multidimensional poverty, and only includes indicators that are available for many countries. National
poverty measures are typically monetary measures, and thus capture something different. The fact that
there are differences does not mean that the national poverty number, or the MPI headcount is wrong—
these simply measure different conceptions of poverty. At the same time, just as national poverty
measures, in contrast, are designed to reflect the domestic situation more accurately and often differ in
very useful ways from the $1.25 measure, some countries may wish to build a national multidimensional
poverty index that is tailored to their context, to complement this international MPI.

No. The MPI is intended to complement monetary measures of poverty, including $1.25 per day
estimates. The relationship between these measures, as well as their policy implications and
methodological improvement, are priorities for further research.

The MPI methodology shows aspects in which the poor are deprived and help to reveal the
interconnections among those deprivations. This enables policymakers to target resources and design
policies more effectively. This is especially useful where the MPI reveals areas or groups characterized by
severe deprivation. Examples where this has been done in practice include Mexico’s poverty-reduction
program, as described in the 2011 Human Development Report.

The MPI reflects the severe deprivations that people face at the same time. Because it was designed to
compare across developing nations. We have described the MPI as a measure of “acute” because it
reflects overlapping deprivation in basic needs and also to avoid confusion with the World Bank’s
measure of “extreme” poverty that captures those living on less than $1.25 a day.

The MPI constitutes a family or set of poverty measures. These measures can be unpacked to show the
composition of poverty 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. This is why OPHI
describes the MPI as a high resolution lens on poverty: it can be used as an analytical tool to identify the
most prevailing deprivations. The MPI measures are explained below:
Incidence of poverty: the proportion of people who are poor according to the MPI (those who are
deprived in at least 33.3% of the weighted indicators).
Average intensity of poverty: the average number of deprivations poor people experience at the same
time.
MPI value: The MPI value summarizes information on multiple deprivations into a single number. It is
calculated by multiplying the incidence of poverty by the average intensity of poverty.

The MPI indicators are drawn from the MDGs as far as the available internationally comparable data
allow. The 10 indicators of the MPI are identical, or relate, to MDG indicators: nutrition (MDG 1), child
mortality (MDG 4), access to drinking water (MDG 7), access to sanitation facility (MDG 7) and use of an
improved source of cooking fuel (MDG 9). The overall MPI can be broken down into its constituent parts,
revealing the overlapping needs of families and communities across a range of indicators which so often
have been presented in isolation. This helps policymakers to see where challenges lie and what needs to
be addressed.

The MPI has some drawbacks, due mainly to data constraints. First, the indicators include both outputs
(such as years of schooling) and inputs (such as cooking fuel) as well as one stock indicator (child
mortality, which could reflect a death that was recent or long ago), because data are not available for all
dimensions. Second, the health data are relatively weak and overlook some groups’ deprivations
especially for nutrition, though the patterns that emerge are plausible and familiar. Third, in some cases
careful judgments were needed to address missing data. But to be considered multidimensionally poor,
households must be deprived in at least six standard of living indicators or in three standard of living
indicators and one health or education indicator. This requirement makes the MPI less sensitive to minor
inaccuracies. Fourth, intra-household inequalities may be severe, but these could not be reflected. Fifth,
while the MPI goes well beyond a headcount to include the intensity of poverty experienced, it does not
measure inequality among the poor, although decompositions by group can be used to reveal groupbased
inequalities. Finally, the estimates presented here are based on publicly available data and cover
various years between 2000 and 2010, which limits direct cross-country comparability.

The multidimensional poverty approach can be adapted using indicators and weights that make sense at
the country level to create tailored national poverty measures. The MPI can be useful as a guide to
helping governments tailor a poverty measure that reflects multiple local indicators and data. In 2009
Mexico, became the first country to adopt a multidimensional poverty measure reflecting multiple
deprivations on the household level.

Yes. The global MPI estimates are constrained by need for comparability. National teams should use the
indicators and weights that make sense. At the country level, however, the multidimensional poverty
approach to assessing deprivations at the household level can be tailored using country-specific data and
indicators to provide a richer picture of poverty at the country level.

Yes. The MPI methodology can and should be modified to generate national Multidimensional Poverty
Measures that reflect local cultural, economic, climatic and other factors. The international MPI was
devised as an analytical tool to compare acute poverty across nations.

We estimated the MPI over time and conducted trend analysis for a handful of countries for which
suitable data are available for. For details see page 51 of Alkire and Santos (2010).

The effects of shocks are difficult to capture in any poverty measure. Because the standard survey data
used to estimate the global measure are collected infrequently, the ability to detect changes is limited by
the available data fed. The MPI will reflect the impacts of shocks as far as these cause children to leave
primary education or to become malnourished, for example. If more frequent data are available at the
country or local level, this can be used to seek to capture the effects of larger scale economic and other
shocks.

The MPI is one of three new experimental series introduced in 2010, alongside the Inequality-adjusted
Human Development Index and the Gender Inequality Index. It will evolve over time just like the other
human development indices.