Multidimensional Deprivation Index: an experimental measure for European developed countries

This seminar is organised jointly with the Institute for International Economic Policy at George Washington University and the UNDP Human Development Report Office.
This seminar will be held online, to register, visit:

There is an intrinsic value of understanding human deprivations when studying human development. For the matter of fact, the Human Development Index was initially computed as the complement of the human deprivation index, which was focusing on people’s deprivation in life expectancy, literacy, and income for a decent standard of living. In the 1997 Human Development Report (HDR), the Human Poverty Index (HPI) was introduced in an attempt to bring together deprivations in human development dimensions in a form of a composite index computed at the national level. Recognizing the fact that people in developed and developing countries experience different forms of deprivation, the 1998 HDR introduced an additional poverty index, the Human Poverty Index-2, which was better reflecting deprivations of developed nations. Both the HPI-1 and HPI-2 were published annually until 2009. In the 2009 HDR the HPI-1 was calculated for 135 developing countries and the HPI-2 for 25 OECD countries. Both indices were developed for ranking the countries and for tracking the changes in the index value over time. They couldn’t be interpreted as the headcount of poor nor as the intensity of deprivation in the country. They couldn’t capture overlapping deprivations, nor they could be disaggregated for the subgroups. The HPI-1 and HPI-2 used data at the country level so they could not distinguish people experiencing deprivations in more than one indicator simultaneously. This can be done only using micro level data.
The 2010 HDR addressed these shortcomings by introducing the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) based on the counting approach of Alkire and Foster (2011) and it is currently being calculated for over 100 developing countries. However, developed countries were not covered, leaving a false impression that there are no multidimensional deprivations in these countries.
With the universality aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals, the need for a measure of overlapping deprivations for developed countries became again important. This paper proposes a new experimental composite index, the Multidimensional Deprivation Index (MDI), aiming to fill the gap by exploring and assessing the overlapping human deprivations in developed countries. It is based on the same counting approach as the MPI for developing countries. Similarly to the MPI, all the indicators needed to construct the MDI must come from the same survey. The experimental MDI proposed here is based on 14 indicators and identifies households and individuals that are acutely deprived in 5 dimensions: education, health, material standard of living, environment and housing, and work.
What is the difference between multidimensional poverty and multidimensional deprivations? Multidimensional poverty refers to individuals lacking multiple basic needs such as access to improved drinking water or improved sanitation facilities. This concept is more appropriate for developing countries. On the other hand, we prefer to use the term multidimensional deprivations to refer to individuals suffering deprivations in aspects that are not basic but that can be no less debilitating to the choices of the individuals and families experiencing the deprivations. Even though a household can have access to improved drinking water and improved sanitation facilities, it can still suffer a deprivation if it cannot keep home adequately warm or if it cannot pay bills on time. This concept is more appropriate for developed countries. Applying the same methodology to developed and developing countries would give the false impression that there are no multidimensional deprivations in developed countries.

About the speaker:
Cecilia’s topics of research include multidimensional poverty, with particular interest in analyzing multidimensional poverty in children, the Human Development Index, inequalities in education and income, and gender inequalities.
Before joining the Human Development Report Office at the United Nations Development Programme, Cecilia has worked at the Population Council, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Center for Distributive, Labor and Social Studies at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata (CEDLAS), Argentina. Cecilia holds a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in Demography from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in Economics from the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina. Her Ph.D. dissertation analyses the relationship between the nutritional status of the mothers and its impact of the growth and development of their children.

About the discussants:
Fanni Kovesdi is a Research Analyst at OPHI, where she is supporting research focused on the global MPI, moderate poverty and wellbeing, and technical work with national governments. Previously she has worked on the Changes over Time project, harmonising global MPI data across 80 countries to analyse trends in poverty. She has also supported previous releases of the global MPI with data work and report writing and lead the ethnicity disaggregation of the measure in 2019.
Fanni holds a Bachelor’s degree in Politics and Sociology from the University of Bristol, and a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Oxford. Prior to joining OPHI, she has worked on research projects at the University of Oxford, the Centre for Social Sciences at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the regional office of Terre des Hommes in Central and South East Europe. Her primarily research interests are in multidimensional poverty measurement and analysis, wellbeing, and ethnicity and migration, particularly in the European context.

Mauricio Apablaza is a Research Associate at OPHI. Previously he worked as a Research Officer and Outreach Coordinator at OPHI, where he lead training programmes for OPHI in South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Jordan, Egypt, Hungary, Brasil, Chile, the Netherlands, Barbados, US, Vietnam, Nicaragua and Thailand, among others. He is also a researcher and professor at the Universidad del Desarrollo.
Mauricio has been regional director to various civil society organizations and a consultant to international businesses and agencies including MEDSTAT/OECD, UNICEF, UNDP, SADC, and the World Bank.
He has a PhD in Economics, University of Nottingham and Masters in Public Policies, University del Desarrollo, Chile.
His research interests are Institutions; international commerce and poverty dynamics.

About the Hosts:
James E. Foster is the Oliver T. Carr, Jr. Professor of International Affairs, Professor of Economics, and Co-Director of the Institute for International Economic Policy at the George Washington University. He is also a Research Associate at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at Oxford University. Professor Foster’s research focuses on welfare economics — using economic tools to evaluate and enhance the wellbeing of people. His work underlies many well-known social indices including the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) published annually by the UNDP in the Human Development Report, dozens of national MPIs used to guide domestic policy against poverty, the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) at USAID, the Gross National Happiness Index of Bhutan, the Better Jobs Index of the InterAmerican Development Bank, and the Statistical Performance Index of the World Bank. Prof. Foster received his PhD in Economics from Cornell University and has a Doctorate Honoris Causa from Universidad Autonoma del Estado Hidalgo (Mexico).

Sabina Alkire directs the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). She is the Associate Professor of Development Studies in the Oxford Department of International Development at the University of Oxford. Her research interests include multidimensional poverty measurement and analysis, welfare economics, the capability approach, the measurement of freedoms and human development. From 2015–16, Sabina was Oliver T Carr Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Economics at George Washington University. Previously, she worked at the Global Equity Initiative at Harvard University, the Human Security Commission, and the World Bank’s Poverty and Culture Learning and Research Initiative. She holds a DPhil in Economics from the University of Oxford.