Measuring multi-dimensional poverty

A new method for measuring multi-dimensional poverty is rigorous, easy to unpack and use for policy, and also flexible enough for different contexts, according to a research centre at Oxford University which has pioneered the approach.

The Alkire Foster (or 'AF') method counts the overlapping or simultaneous deprivations that a person or household experiences in different indicators. People are identified as multi-dimensionally poor if the weighted sum of their deprivations is greater than or equal to a chosen poverty cut-off point. Having identified who is poor, the method then summarises information to show the deprivations experienced by those in poverty as a proportion of all possible deprivations in society.

Key points

  • One unique aspect of the AF method, the centre says, is that it reveals the intensity of poverty. Thus it can distinguish between, for example, a group of poor people who suffer only two deprivations on average, and a group of poor people who suffer four deprivations on average at the same time.
  • The measure can be decomposed by geographic area, ethnicity, gender or other social groups, to show the composition of poverty within and between them.
  • The measure can be used to monitor changes in poverty and the composition of poverty over time, reflecting deprivations directly and changes immediately as these change. This makes it an effective monitoring tool because improvements in the dimensions measured, such as health and education, are reflected more quickly than under traditional approaches.
  • The method can be used to complement other measures, such as income poverty, GDP, and inequality measures.

The report goes on to illustrate the method's application in seven specific countries – Colombia, China, Mexico, Brazil, Bhutan, El Salvador and Malaysia.

SourceMeasuring Multidimensional Poverty: Insights from around the World, Oxford Poverty and Human Rights Initiative


Publication date: 
Jul 12 2013