The Journal of Economic Inequality

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 289–314 | Cite as

Understandings and misunderstandings of multidimensional poverty measurement

  • Sabina AlkireEmail author
  • James Foster


Multidimensional measures provide an alternative lens through which poverty may be viewed and understood. In recent work we have attempted to offer a practical approach to identifying the poor and measuring aggregate poverty (Alkire and Foster, J Public Econ, 2011). As this is quite a departure from traditional unidimensional and multidimensional poverty measurement—particularly with respect to the identification step—further elaboration may be warranted. In this paper we elucidate the strengths, limitations, and misunderstandings of multidimensional poverty measurement in order to clarify the debate and catalyse further research. We begin with general definitions of unidimensional and multidimensional methodologies for measuring poverty. We provide an intuitive description of our measurement approach, including a ‘dual cutoff’ identification step that views poverty as the state of being multiply deprived, and an aggregation step based on the traditional FGT measures. We briefly discuss five characteristics of our methodology that are easily overlooked or mistaken and conclude with some brief remarks on the way forward.


Poverty measurement Multidimensional poverty Deprivation FGT measures Decomposability Joint distribution Axiom 

JEL Classification

I3 I32 D63 O1 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Oxford Department of International DevelopmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.The Institute for International Economic Policy, The Elliott SchoolThe George Washington UniversityWashington, DCUSA

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