Debate Brews Over New Poverty Index

    A slum area in Pune, India. Photo by: Ted / CC BY-NC-SA TedCC BY-NC-SA

    Sabina Alkire was quick to defend the new poverty measure launched by the United Nations early in July.

    Akire heads the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, which designed the Multidimensional Poverty Index, the tool replacing the Human Poverty Index.

    In a post at “From Poverty to Power” blog, she says: “If we know someone is income poor, we do not know if they are also illiterate or malnourished. If we know someone is multidimensionally poor, we can unpack the MPI to see how they are poor. That is one added value of our methodology. That is why we call it a high resolution lens: you can zoom in and see more. This feature could add value to the MDG indicators too.”

    Her remarks were in response to an earlier post by Martin Ravallion, director of the World Bank’s research department, in the same blog, questioning the usefulness of the index.

    “It is agreed that consumption or income poverty measures need to be supplemented by other measures to get a complete picture,” he argues. “But does that mean we should add up the multiple dimensions of poverty into a single composite index? Or should we instead measure consumption poverty with the best data available, while also looking for the best data on other dimensions of poverty as appropriate to the country context?”

    About the author

    • Chiden Balmes

      Chiden, a correspondent based in Seoul, focuses on computer-assisted reporting to provide international development professionals with practical business and career information. He also contributes to the Development Newswire and the Global Development Briefing, two of the world's highest-circulation development publications.