Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHD) developed the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme Human Development (UNDP) in 2010. Since then, they publish the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) annually.
The latest report, published in October 2021, examined acute multidimensional poverty in 109 countries in developing regions, covering 5.9 billion people. The MPI is useful to establish a comprehensive understanding of people living in poverty. It also allows readers to slice and dice global poverty into regions, countries, ethnic groups, locations, and other characteristics.
How to Measure Multidimensional Poverty
Multidimensional poverty is different from income poverty. A person is multidimensionally poor if they suffer from multiple disadvantages at the same time. Then, how can we determine the multidimensional poverty?
While there are many methodologies to determine poverty, the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) measures poverty using information from 10 indicators. The 10 indicators are grouped into three dimensions of poverty: Health, Education, and Living Standards. These three dimensions are the same as the dimensions of human development used in UN Human Development Index.
To calculate multidimensional poverty, the Global MPI gives each unit a deprivation score based on deprivation cutoff. It identifies a person as multidimensionally poor if they are deprived in one third of the ten indicators. In other words, a person is multidimensionally poor if their deprivation score is equal to or higher than the poverty cutoff of 33.33%.
The following table shows the 10 indicators with cutoffs.
|Health||Nutrition||Any person under 70 years of age for whom there is nutritional information is undernourished.|
|Child mortality||A child under 18 has died in the household in the five-year period preceding the survey|
|Education||Years of schooling||No eligible household member has completed six years of schooling.|
|School attendance||Any school-aged child is not attending school up to the age at which he/she would complete class 8.|
|Cooking fuel||A household cooks using solid fuel, such as dung, agricultural crop, shrubs, wood, charcoal, or coal.|
|Sanitation||The household has unimproved or no sanitation facility or it is improved but shared with other households.|
|Drinking water||The household’s source of drinking water is not safe or safe drinking water is a 30-minute or longer walk from home, roundtrip.|
|Electricity||The household has no electricity.|
|Housing||The household has inadequate housing materials in any of the
three components: floor, roof, or walls.
|Assets||The household 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.|
While multidimensional poverty considers these dimensions, monetary poverty only refers to people who live on less than $1.90 a day. Multidimensional poverty and monetary poverty can complement each other, but they are different information.
Who Are Multidimensionally Poor in 2021
The Multidimensional Poverty Index 2021 studied 109 developing countries. 26 countries are low-income countries, 80 middle-income countries, and 3 high-income countries. 5.9 billion people live across the 109 countries, which accounts for 92% of the developing countries’ population.
Of the 5.9 billion people who live across the 109 countries studied, 1.3 billion people are multidimensionally poor in 2021. Pulling information from the report, the infographic above lists some interesting findings common in more than half of the multidimensionally poor people.
85% Live in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia
559 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa and 532 million people in South Asia are multidimensionally poor. They account for 85% of the global multidimensionally poor population.
Sub-Saharan Africa is reportedly the richest region in ethnic groups. However, unfortunately the disparities within countries by ethnicity is the largest in this region. In other words, the difference in percentage of multidimensionally poor people between the poorest ethnic groups and least poor groups was larger in Sub-Saharan region.
India also has the similar trend. Five out of the six multidimensionally poor people hail from lower castes in India.
84% Live in Rural Areas
1.1 billion (84%) multidimensionally poor people live in rural areas, while 209 million (16%) live in urban areas. That is to say, people in rural areas are likely to experience multidimensional poverty.
Sure enough, rural poverty is widely observed in both developing countries as well as in developed countries. One of the reasons for rural poverty is that rural areas often lack opportunities and infrastructure. Lack of opportunities and infrastructure can as a result affect health, education and living standards of rural population.
About Half Are Children under 18
644 million of the 1.3 billion multidimensionally poor people are children under age 18. The poverty ratio is much higher in children than in adults—one in three children is multidimensionally poor, while so is one in six adults. 24 out of the 109 countries achieved no significant improvement in multidimensional poverty among children.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of children stepped out of school. This was more true in multidimensionally-poorer countries.
About Half Don’t Have Electricity
678 million have no electricity. Electricity is one of the most important components of modern civilization. It enables people to refrigerate and store food, helps people adjust temperature, and enables people to see at night in the dark. Furthermore, it makes people’s lives more efficient and comfortable by enabling them to use various appliances. Thanks to electricity, children can carry on their studies at night; adults can work from home during a pandemic.
Nevertheless, about half of the multidimensionally poor people do not have access to electricity. Shockingly, one in eleven people on the earth cannot use electricity today—678 million is just below one eleventh of the world population (7.8 billion as of 2021).
568 Million Travel Long Distance to Fetch Water
Tap water became much more common in many countries and regions in the last century. However, 568 million people do not have improved drinking water within a 30-minute roundtrip walk.
Having access to safe and readily available water is crucial in improving public health. People need improved water to simply hydrate themselves, to cook, or to clean themselves. Furthermore, it is also crucial for public safety. The report points out that having to travel long distance to fetch water puts women at risk of sexual and physical violence.
550 Million Live without at Least 7 of 8 Assets and a Car
The 8 assets are: radio, television, telephone, computer, animal cart, bicycle, motorbike or refrigerator. 550 million of the 1.3 billion multidimensionally poor people do not own at least 7 of these 8 assets. They also do not have a car.
The items in the assets indicator underwent revisions to reflect depravations more adequately. Originally, the list included the following 6 items: radio, TV, telephone, bike, motorbike, and refrigerator. The 2021 MPI included radio, TV, telephone, computer, animal cart, bicycle, motorbike, or refrigerator.