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Measuring & Analysing Poverty


Video by World Bank, see original webpage here»

Most people, whatever their social status, have a clear mental image of what it is to be poor. The simplest definition, that of a lack of money, is still one that is widely used – thus the UN Millennium Development Goals define people living on less than US $1 per day as poor (a figure revised upwards to US $1.90 per day by the World Bank in 2015). Yet even if this figure is adjusted to fit local contexts, it hides many important components of poverty.

Most countries define a national poverty line, defined as the minimum income needed to survive. Since there are general implications of the need for State support for those who fall below the poverty line, the way it is defined can be contentious and subject to manipulation. There are of course many other ways of measuring poverty, one that is widely used for cross-country comparisons being the UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) , which combines life expectancy, education, and income. A more comprehensive measurement is the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and launched in 2010 with the support of the UNDP.

The SDC understands poverty as a multifaceted phenomenon encompassing economic, human, political, socio-cultural, and protective aspects – with gender being a cross-cutting issue. Globally, a woman is more likely to be poor than a man. The multi-faceted definition of poverty shows that being poor touches all aspects of life, undermining human dignity and well-being. It also underlines the fact that money alone does not necessarily release people from poverty.

Poverty has a spatial element, in that people living in particular geographical areas – often remote, poorly supplied with basic services and agriculturally unproductive – can be caught in spatial poverty traps.

Poverty also has a temporal element. For some people, being poor it is a temporary situation caused by factors beyond their control, from which they believe it is possible to escape. For other people, being poor is a fact of life, a chronic situation that they cannot envisage ever being able to escape; indeed, the structural factors keeping them in poverty may be beyond their influence to change. Such people are often defined as those living in chronic, absolute, or extreme poverty. Generally, it is considered a greater challenge to design interventions that reach people who are chronically poor.

​​​Further Information​

> Data and Leave ​No​ One Behind​

> Fragility and Conflict: On the Front Lines of the Fight Against Poverty

> Is the world on track to end poverty by 2030? See for yourself through the World Poverty Clock

> Why poverty targ​eting may not be the right thing to do

> Time to End Extreme Inequ​ality: Oxfam’s New Report

> Counting the ​Asian Poor… Do Revisions in Calculations Lead to Greater Understanding?

> Prioritising​ Poverty Reduction: Swiss, Swedish and Norwegian ODA Compared

> The Politics of Evidence: Sharpening the Poverty Focus of Donor Development Efforts – Or Dumbing it Down​? 

> International Indices: Confusing or Clarifying the Poverty Debate?

> The World Ba​nk’s New Poverty Focus: A Radical Change or “More of the Same”?

> The World Bank​ – Poverty & Equ​ity Data Portal

> Rural Poverty Redu​ction in Afghanistan: The Need to Re-Emphasise the Multidimensionality of Poverty

​> The Invisibility of People in Development Projects  

> The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach Learning Module: Poverty and Livelihoods in Development Cooperation 

> How Concern Understands Extreme Poverty



Key Resources

Data and Leave No One Behind​