LONDON — The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is a system for evaluating the world’s poor. The Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative’s website describes the global MPI as “comprehensive,” and comprehensive it most certainly is.
In contrast to other systems that define a life in poverty as a purely economic condition, the global MPI takes more than finances into consideration when classifying an individual as impoverished or not. Therefore, the conclusions drawn from the yearly index are much more expansive and revealing than other reports on global poverty.
First, the global MPI, which surveys more than 100 developing countries, looks at income statistics. The index then looks at its three set dimensions of poverty — a person’s health, education and standard of living — to decide whether an individual is in fact experiencing a life in poverty. From here, experts can get a more accurate reading on the basic human rights of survival that individuals living in certain areas cannot access.
The global MPI’s precision does not stop there. Each of the three dimensions of poverty is broken down further to more clearly decide whether a person is “MPI poor” or not. Health breaks down into nutrition and mortality, education looks at years of schooling and school attendance and standard of living refers to cooking fuel, sanitation, water, electricity, floor and assets. Individuals that do not pass one-third or more of the weighted subcategories are classified as “MPI poor.”
What do weighted subcategories mean? If the index operated on a system of points, as it basically does, the larger categories of health, education and standard of living would each receive one-third of the total point values. However, more subcategories fall under standard of living than health or education. To compensate, the standard of living subcategories are not weighted as heavily as they are in the other two categories.
Following with the points analogy, failing nutrition, for example, would earn one half of the health points or one-sixth of the total points. Failing sanitation, on the other hand, would earn one-sixth of the delegated standard of living points, translating to just one-eighteenth of the total points. In order to be “MPI poor,” an analysis of an individual’s conditions must earn one-third or more of the total points.
The weight of each subcategory corresponds to the severity of its impact on an individual’s life. That is why the MPI system is such an accurate measure of global poverty. The definition of an impoverished life is clearly defined and it sympathizes with issues beyond economic status.
Additionally, the global MPI is more humanizing because it evaluates everyone on an individual basis. Rather than looking at statistics for a city or an entire country, it measures the life of any person against its three dimensions and definitively states whether that person is “MPI poor” or not. The index does not unconsciously group people together based on average living conditions, health or income rates in a particular area.
Before the MPI was introduced, the Human Poverty Index (HPI) was used widely to identify global poverty. The HPI could not account for individuals or small households the way that the MPI does today. Therefore, the HPI, which solely evaluates nation or city-wide averages, was replaced by the MPI in 2009.
The 2014 global MPI was released in London on June 16 as a part of the United Nation’s Human Development Report. It analyzes citizens of 108 countries. Added together, the populations of these 108 countries make up 78 percent of the world’s population. Just under one-third of these people meet the qualifications for being deemed “MPI poor.”
Despite the harsh data provided in the report, the 2014 MPI also illustrates good news for global poverty reduction. In looking at reports from previous years, the 2014 index reveals that Nepal, Rwanda, Ghana and Bangladesh are reducing multidimensional poverty at the fastest rates. In addition, eight of the top 10 countries striving to alleviate multidimensional poverty are low income countries.
Other interesting statistics from this year’s MPI include the fact that 85 percent of “MPI poor” individuals live in rural areas and 71 percent of “MPI poor” individuals live in middle income countries. For data tables explaining even more statistics, visit this link.
Stories about individuals, their personal struggles with living a life of multidimensional poverty and figures on how they stack up against the MPI’s three dimensions can be found here.
Aside from the fact that its categorical system is simple to use, the global MPI is a humanizing approach to global poverty. By using a system that is capable of analyzing a person as a unique individual, the global MPI not only gives the individual in question a greater sense of importance, but also reminds statistical analyzers to keep the main focus of their research in the forefront of their minds: improving the life of human beings.
– Emily Walthouse