With much of the world’s attention focused on reducing the incidence of poverty, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with academics of Oxford University, recently launched a new index to measure poverty levels that will show a multidimensional picture of people living in hardship, and could help target development resources more effectively.
The new measure, the Multidimensional Poverty Index, or MPI, was developed and applied by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) with UNDP support. To be featured in the forthcoming 20th Anniversary edition of the UNDP Human Development Report, the MPI will replace the Human Poverty Index, which had been included in these reports since 1997.
This year’s Human Development Report will employ the MPI that assesses a range of critical factors or “deprivations” on the household level, from education to health outcomes to assets and services. Taken together, these factors provide a fuller portrait of acute poverty than simple income measures.
In explaining the MPI, the new measure is likened to a high-resolution lens which reveals a vivid spectrum of challenges facing the poorest households. The MPI provides a fuller measure of poverty than the traditional dollar-a-day formulas. It is expected to be a valuable addition to the family of instruments that are used to examine broader aspects of well-being.
The UNDP and OPHI researchers analyzed data from 104 countries with a combined population of 5.2 billion or 78 percent of the world’s total. About 1.7 billion people in the countries covered – a third of their entire population – live in multidimensional poverty, according to the MPI. This exceeds the 1.3 billion people, in those same countries, estimated to live on $1.25 a day or less, the more commonly accepted measure of “extreme poverty.” Half of the world’s poor as measured by the MPI live in South Asia (51 percent or 844 million people) and one quarter in Africa (28 percent or 458 million). Even in countries with strong economic growth in recent years, the MPI analysis reveals the persistence of acute poverty.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index definitely provides a fuller account of a prolonged global problem, allowing global and national leaders a better handle of the woe that needs to be attended to.
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