Written evidence from Dr. José Manuel Roche (CPM0046)


Evidence from Dr. José Manuel Roche, Research Associate

at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI)



1. This note expands on the oral evidence provided to the Work and Pensions Committee on the inquiry: Children in poverty: Measurement and targets.[1] We include additional details from the multiple examples of best practice around the world.


2. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer the most important global framework to monitor progress on poverty, including child poverty. Building on international conventions signed by countries including the UK, the SDGs contain a set of global targets that Member States have agreed to meet by 2030.


3. A key novelty of the SDGs framework is that it applies to all countries around the world, rich and poor countries alike.[2] All countries, including the UK, are expected to submit voluntary reports to the UN on their progress on all targets and indicators. The international goals and metrics are used for international comparability, but countries are also expected to set up their own benchmarks and relevant metrics for national monitoring and to report to their own citizens.


4. The SDGs were adopted in 2015 and set 2030 as the target year for delivery. The benefit of such long-term targets is to create sustained public accountability on persistent, pressing challenges such as child poverty.[3]


5. The first goal of the SDGs aims to end poverty in all its forms everywhere by:



6. The consensus behind the SDGs defines poverty in terms of both income poverty (Target 1.1.) and multidimensional poverty or poverty in all its forms (Target 1.2).


7. The SDGs framework acknowledges that poverty measures should aim to capture both monetary and non-monetary aspects of poverty because monetary and multidimensional poverty does not fully overlap. The two measures can identify different populations as poor[4]. Relying solely on monetary poverty may miss large segments of the population experiencing deprivations in areas other than income, for instance, schooling or learning, health, employment, or housing conditions. Similarly, excluding income or economic poverty could overlook some households experiencing material or deprivations in living standards. There is therefore consensus that monetary poverty measures and multidimensional poverty measures complement each other to provide a fuller picture.


8. Monetary and multidimensional poverty can also move at different speeds and in different directions over time[5]. Thinking of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis in terms of child poverty, people’s income and employment might be impacted more than their housing conditions in the short term, while, among children, deprivations in education and learning could increase rapidly despite no immediate changes in living standards. Therefore, governments need both measures to direct policy and effectively target poverty in all its forms everywhere as per the SDG definition.


9. In terms of reporting on SDG 1, global data on income poverty is produced by the World Bank using different poverty lines for different types of comparisons. At the country level, almost all countries produce their own national income poverty measures based on more precise poverty lines using standardized methodologies. Countries may combine absolute poverty measures with relative poverty measures to provide a fuller picture. The best practice is to disaggregate income poverty picture by age groups, monitoring in such way child poverty also.[6]


10. Internationally comparable figures on multidimensional poverty in the developing world are published by the United Nations Development Programme and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative via the global Multidimensional Poverty Index[7]. Many countries have also adopted an official national Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), tailored to their own context, to complement unidimensional income/consumption measures. So far, 64 countries have reported on multidimensional poverty for the SDGs, with at least 28 countries using national Multidimensional Poverty Indices. Most national MPIs are used for measurement and monitoring, policy design and coordination, budget allocation and targeting. A group of 61 countries and 19 organizations are part of the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN) which exchanges expertise and policy work on this area.


Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN) https://mppn.org/


The Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN) is a growing global community of 61 countries and 19 organizations that focuses on multidimensional poverty. The Network provides south-south dialogue, capacity building and, access to a repository of experiences and lessons learned about measuring multidimensional poverty.


Created in 2013, the Network was established to provide support to policymakers who are implementing a national Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) or are exploring the possibility of developing multidimensional measures of poverty.


The MPPN aims to eradicate poverty through the use of measurements that consider the different types of deprivations experienced simultaneously by people living in poverty. The MPPN also works to promote public policies that have better technical design, greater focus and more effectiveness in reducing poverty in all its dimensions. The Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network meets annually to share experiences on measuring multidimensional poverty. To date, the following meetings have been held: Oxford 2013, Berlin 2014, Cartagena 2015, Acapulco 2016, Beijing 2017, Johannesburg 2018 and Mahé 2019.

11. Countries around the world use a combination of the following methods to measure poverty:







Example 1: NEW ZEALAND


With the aim to halve the number of poor children within the next ten years, New Zealand is taking a comprehensive set of legislative, policy, and programmatic interventions, starting with the adoption of the Child Poverty Reduction Act 2018, which provides strategic vision and political accountability towards reducing child poverty. The Act sets the foundation for a number of child poverty reduction measures, such as the Families Package which includes tax credit and other programmes to support child development. The legislation also requires successive governments to routinely measure and monitor child poverty rates against medium- and long-term goals and targets, and report annually on progress using indicators that go beyond income, including housing affordability and quality, food insecurity, regular school attendance, avoidable hospitalisations, among others. The measurement will have important implications for social investments, as governments are expected to outline how proposed budgets will impact child poverty rates. 


Overview of the measure and approach: https://dpmc.govt.nz/our-programmes/reducing-child-poverty/child-poverty-measures-targets-and-indicators


Recent update on measuring child poverty: https://www.stats.govt.nz/methods/measuring-child-poverty-concepts-and-definitions




12. All three types of measures report on the form(s) of poverty experienced by poor people, the minimum standard(s) required in each area, and the proportion of the population identified as living in poverty by the measure (incidence or headcount ratio).


13. In addition, a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) captures the intensity of poverty[8] experienced by those identified as poor. This is important for eradicating poverty, as governments have a duty not only to lift people above the poverty line but also to reduce the number of deprivations faced by those still in poverty.


14. Unlike multidimensional dashboards, the MPI shows the simultaneous disadvantages experienced by individuals and households across the different areas of poverty. This enables policymakers to go beyond the proportion of the population identified as living in poverty and address the interlinkages between deprivations such as health, education, income or living standards. This can lead to more effective policy responses such as multi-sector interventions that target different but connected aspects of poverty.



The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)


The global MPI: compares acute multidimensional poverty for over 100 countries in developing regions. Goal 1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to end poverty in all its forms and dimensions. The global MPI offers a tool to make progress towards this goal by providing a detailed image of who is poor and how they are poor. It offers both a global headline and a fine-grained analysis covering 1,279 subnational regions, and important groups such as children, together with the indicator deprivations of each group. The global MPI is produced in partnership between the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report Office (UNDP HDRO).


National MPI: Many countries are designing national Multidimensional Poverty Indices (MPIs). Others have implemented national or regional MPIs as official poverty measures. Examples of official permanent national MPIs include:


    2009: Mexico

    2010: Bhutan

    2011: Colombia

    2014: Ho Chi Minh City (Viet Nam)

    2015: Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Viet Nam

    2016: Armenia, Ecuador, Honduras, Mozambique, and Pakistan

    2017: Dominican Republic, Nepal, and Panama

    2018: Nigeria, Philippines (initial methodology), and Rwanda

    2019: Afghanistan, Guatemala, and Sierra Leone

    2020: Angola, Ghana, Maldives, Palestine, and Seychelles


Other governments and international organizations, many of them members of the MPPN, are creating an MPI or have expressed interest in exploring the development of these measures. Today, ministers and senior officials from 61 governments and 19 international agencies are involved.


Example 2: COLOMBIA


In 2011, President Juan Manual Santos introduced a new National Development Plan focusing on poverty reduction. As a result, the Ministry of Planning has developed both multidimensional (C-MPI) and monetary metrics to monitor poverty and build social assistance programmes around it. The metric includes child specific indicators, and results are disaggregated by age group to monitor child poverty too.


The set of poverty measures help not only to assess what is going on in the country, but to direct and coordinate policies to address the multiple forms of poverty identified by the measures. This approach has helped to facilitate coordination between government departments and local governments and has led to successful poverty reduction over the years. To track progress on the Colombian National Development Plan, two mechanisms were put in place:


  • a National Roundtable meeting chaired by the President, which convenes key ministries and agencies working on poverty reduction, and
  • an accompanying dashboard system which monitored progress across various poverty measures including the C-MPI using traffic lights, and guided policy discussions at the roundtable.


In addition, a special ministerial cabinet was established to support meeting the targets outlined in the National Development Plan. The cabinet includes every minister or head of department responsible for indicators in the National MPI. Data collection and statistics related to the measure are delivered by the National Statistics Department (an independent body) in collaboration with national and international experts. The MPI data is now collected and released on an annual basis, with regular reporting on progress to the public.


Official website from Colombia


Policy briefs on the Colombian experience on the National Roundtable and Dashboard




Summary of the Colombia MPI process



Goal setting with MPI


SDG monitoring with MPI


Academic article on the process of building the Colombia MPI






Source: Angulo, R. (2016). ‘From Multidimensional Poverty Measurement to Multisector Public Policy For Poverty Reduction: Lessons from the Colombian Case’. OPHI Working Paper 102, University of Oxford.



Source: ‘Multidimensional Poverty Index – Applications Colombia’. Presentation to the First Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network meeting by Bruce Mac Master, Director of the Department for Social Prosperity. Oxford, June 2013


15. Best practices across the globe include not only specific targets and metrics, but also a careful institutional design to facilitate policy coordination to address poverty in all its forms, and in particular child poverty. New Zealand, Colombia and Mexico three constricting and successful examples (see boxes for example 1, 2 and 3). Our advice to the UK Parliament is to consider carefully the institutional layout that can most successfully implement a child poverty reduction strategy in the UK context.


16. Many countries advocate that child poverty measures form part of the national strategy for poverty reduction as disjointed measures and targets can cause confusion and make interpretation for policy-applications difficult. That is the case for both Mexico and Colombia. The key for successful policy responses is to think about how the different poverty measures can be combined to work together in effectively reducing poverty in all its forms.


17. Child poverty measures should ideally be at the individual level, but this is often difficult to achieve as many child-relevant deprivations are measured at the household level, and deprivations also change by age group (e.g. infants cannot be at school). Both conditions tend to pose limitations in availability and comparability of data, hence why child measures are often constructed at the household level. 


18. The most common approach to measure child poverty using a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) has been to include key child indicators in the national MPI and disaggregate the results by age group such as the case of Colombia. It is also possible to do intrahousehold analysis of the MPI to explore dynamics within the household.[9] A third option is to create a child MPI that directly links to a national MPI, which is what Mexico has chosen.


19. A child-specific poverty measure has the potential to capture deprivations that have disproportionate effects on children and/or deprivations impacting children only. We know that children experience poverty differently from adults, and poverty varies for children across age groups. Therefore, a child-focused poverty measure should include age-appropriate deprivations to fully understand the situation for different age cohorts .


20. Beyond measuring the lived experience of poverty among children accurately, it is vital that all indicators in a measure have clear policy implications. If an indicator cannot react to policy over time, it loses value for monitoring and public policy. There could of course be a causal relationship between indicators, but the analysis on the causes should be undertaken separately.


21. Our advice is to focus on outcome indicators that capture dimensions of wellbeing that matter for children. The child poverty measure is an evaluative measure after all, so the dimensions should reflect the desired outcomes for children (being healthy, being educated and learning, enjoying good housing conditions, being free from material deprivations, etc.). 



Example 3: MEXICO


The Mexican Parliament established an independent body, the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL) in 2005. It is an autonomous entity responsible for measuring poverty, including multidimensional poverty, at the federal, state and local levels. To meet its objectives, CONEVAL maintains constant interaction with the government at all levels. As part of this process, a National Strategy for Social Inclusion was put in place, aimed at coordinating efforts to reduce poverty at the federal and local levels.


The multidimensional poverty measure for Mexico is based on a legal framework, the constitution, and uses the same methodology as the Global MPI to aggregate the data into a single Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). The index provides a summary score and can be broken down by indicator and population subgroups to show changes in poverty across time and inequalities across different regions and areas. Mexico now has more than 10 years of experience using this approach and is a founding member of the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network.


Since 2009, CONEVAL and UNICEF have established a joint working strategy for the study of child poverty to identify elements for the design of public policies. The collaboration between the two institutions has been documented in four reports (in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2016) evaluating the state of poverty and access to social rights by girls, boys and adolescents in Mexico. They have opted for a single measurement approach under the rational that differentiated measurements would increase the risk of fragmenting social policy actions and diluting their effects.


Official website


Policy briefs on CONEVAL




Mexican methodology for multidimensional poverty measurement




Child poverty in Mexico



Additional Examples and Resources


Dimensions special issue on child poverty

This provides a comprehensive introduction and covers a range of topics related to measuring child poverty, including differences between the monetary and multidimensional approach, MODA and MPI, and some case studies from Mexico and Panama. The articles are not too technical and are suited for an audience such as the Commission. 


Thematic conference on measuring child poverty using MPI

This includes presentations from Chile and Mexico (as well as OPHI).


Multidimensional Poverty Measurement and Analysis: The Book




About OPHI


The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) is a world-leading economic research and policy centre within the Oxford Department of International Development at the University of Oxford. Established in 2007, the centre is led by Professor Sabina Alkire and specialises in multidimensional poverty measurement and analysis. OPHI aims to build and advance a more systematic methodological and economic framework for reducing multidimensional poverty, grounded in people’s experiences and values.


Our work focuses on:


Impacting policy by producing effective methodologies that have been adopted by policy makers, including national governments and the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report Office.


June 2021

[1] Recording: https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/c04f3234-865a-4f52-ad25-8837f6759ead

[2] The SDGs are universal in this respect. The previous development goals (the MDGs) applied only to developing countries.

[3] Children have been shown to suffer more deprivations and be more affected by poverty as opposed to other age groups across the world (p6, OPHI and HDRO 2019).

[4] Evans, Nogales and Robson 2020, Suppa 2016

[5] ibid, Alkire et al 2020

[6] 1 in 6 children lives in extreme poverty according to recent analysis published by the World Bank and UNICEF: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/10/20/1-in-6-children-lives-in-extreme-poverty-world-bank-unicef-analysis-shows

[7] https://ophi.org.uk/multidimensional-poverty-index/ or http://hdr.undp.org/en/2020-MPI

[8] That is the share of indicators in which a child or household is deprived according to the MPI.

[9] For an example see: https://ophi.org.uk/the-state-of-multidimensional-child-poverty-in-south-asia-a-contextual-and-gendered-view/