Global distribution of multi-dimensional poverty

Only a quarter of the world's multi-dimensionally poor people, and just a third of those who are severely multi-dimensionally poor, live in the world’s poorest countries. That's the conclusion of a new paper from the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, which has pioneered the use of multi-dimensional poverty indices that measure not just living standards but also factors such as health and education.

Key findings

  • Countries that fall into the same income category can have quite different poverty levels. Among upper-middle income countries (UMICs) the percentage of multi-dimensional poverty ranges from almost nil in Belarus to 39.6 per cent in Namibia. Among lower-middle income countries (LMICs) it ranges from 0.8 per cent in Georgia to 68.1 per cent in Timor-Leste. Among low-income countries (LICs), it ranges from 4.9 per cent in Kyrgyzstan to 92.4 per cent in Niger.
  • Multi-dimensionally poor people are heavily concentrated in a relatively small number of 10–20 populous countries. Over 80 per cent live in ten countries, and over 90 per cent live in just 20 countries. Indeed, 40 per cent live in a single country, India. Five of the top ten countries in terms of numbers of multi-dimensionally poor people, and seven of the top 20, have recently ‘graduated’ from low-income to middle-income country status.
  • There are some surprising levels of severe multi-dimensional poverty in a number of MICs – typically up to a quarter or a third of the population in the case of countries such as India (28.6 per cent), Nigeria (33.9 per cent), Pakistan (27.4 per cent), Cote d’Ivoire (39.3 per cent) and Yemen (31.9 per cent). Rates of severe multi-dimensional poverty are, however, higher in low-income countries, with the highest rates in Ethiopia (72 per cent) and Niger (82 per cent).
  • Close to three-quarters of multi-dimensionally poor people, and over two-thirds of people in severe multi-dimensional poverty, live in MICs. There are 1.56 billion multi-dimensionally poor people across 83 countries, of whom just over a billion live in MICs and 0.42 billion live in LICs. There are 830 million people in severe multi-dimensional poverty, of whom over 560 million live in MICs and over 260 million in LICs.

Source: Sabina Alkire, Jose Manuel Roche and Andy Sumner, Where Do the World’s Multidimensionally Poor People Live?, Working Paper 61, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative