Where do the world’s poorest people actually live? Big new databank on multidimensional poverty launched today

January 7, 2015

     By Duncan Green     

Has it ever struck you as pretty bonkers that we usually discuss poverty at national level, equating giant countries like India, with tiny islands whose population would OPHIdisappear without trace in a single Indian city? If so, you, along with happy poverty nerds everywhere, should check out today’s Multidimensional Poverty Index from Sabina Alkire and co at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).

OPHI has pioneered a new way of measuring  the different dimensions of poverty, and then mashing up ten different indicators to get an overall figure (see diagram). This year’s numbers update the figures, and have two other important aspects:

The index now covers 110 developing countries (5.4 billion people), and 803 regions in 72 of these countries. That allows a much finer grained understanding of poverty, both in terms of its variation within countries, and its different nature in different places.

The MPI can be broken down to reveal what percentage of the population are both MPI poor (because they experience multiple deprivations), and are deprived in each particular indicator. For example, the region with the highest rates of people who are multidimensionally poor and simultaneously deprived in nutrition is Affar in Ethiopia, and that with most child mortality is Nord-Ouest in Cote d’Ivoire. Karamoja in Uganda is the most deprived region for sanitation, and Wad Fira in Chad for drinking water, electricity and years of schooling. Androy Madagascar has the highest rates of people who are poor and don’t own any assets, and Kuntuar in Gambia for school attendance.

But the unwanted accolade of the world’s poorest region overall goes to none of these, but to a poverty all rounder instead. In Salamat in south-east Chad, a landlocked region just south of the Sahel, bordering the Central African Republic, nearly 98% of the 354,000 inhabitants are multidimensionally poor.

In terms of inequality, Nigeria is the country with the most extreme regional differences in multidimensional poverty.

The five poorest sub-national regions in different geographical areas are:

Sub-Saharan Africa: Salamat, Hadjer Lamis and Lac in Chad; and Est and Sahel in Burkina Faso.

MDI components

Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Eastern Turkey; and four areas in Tajikistan: Khatlon, Gorno-Badakhshan, Sughd, and Districts of Republican Subordination.

Arab States: ‘the Capital and all other districts’ of Djibouti; and Missan, Al-Qadisiva and Al-Muthanna in Iraq.

Latin America and Caribbean: Central, Grande-Anse, North-East, Artibonite and North-West – all in Haiti.

East Asia and the Pacific: Oecussi, Ermera, Ainaro and Viqueque in Timor-Leste; and Mondol Kiri/Rattanak Kiri in Cambodia.

South Asia: Bihar and Jharkhand in India; South and West Afghanistan; and Balochistan in Pakistan.

Overall, the findings echo Andy Sumner’s ‘bottom billion’ findings – nearly 60 per cent of people living in the world’s poorest regions are actually not in the least developed countries, but in poor regions within better-off nations.

The report also has some surprising and positive findings on data availability: in 29 of the 30 low income countries that have MPI estimations, data can be disaggregated sub-nationally into 293 regions.

For ubernerds, there’s an interactive databank that allows you to make your own infographics. You’re welcome.

For (relative) normals like me, there are some explanatory infographics about the whole MPI idea, including this one (if you can read it – infographics are getting as busy as bad academic powerpoints).

MPI infographic1_web

January 7, 2015
Duncan Green