Social Indicators Research

, Volume 130, Issue 3, pp 883–910 | Cite as

Measuring Individual Material Well-Being Using Multidimensional Indices: An Application Using the Gender and Generation Survey for Russia

  • Daria PopovaEmail author
  • Alina Pishniak


This paper suggests a new and comprehensive approach to the assessment of the material well-being at the individual level by constructing a multidimensional index. Using this approach, material well-being is understood as a generic notion that covers a number of different domains, whereas the concept of domain is used to distinguish between different aspects of people’s resources, including income security, basic needs, durables, housing and subjective material well-being. Each dimension is measured independently, using the best indicators available, to generate a score or domain index for each aspect of material well-being. The procedure of re-weighting the indicators within the separate domains enables us to account for the disparity in resources and consumer preferences across different population subgroups. The final domain scores, combined with explicit weighting, are then used to generate a summary material well-being index. The domain indices and the summary material well-being index are validated by exploring their relationships to key socio-economic attributes, which were previously shown to be strongly associated with individual material well-being. The results showed that the summary indices of material well-being are characterized by greater differentiation in relation to such measures, as occupational class and judgments of satisfaction with one’s life. This allows us to conclude that our summary indices capture the latent concept of material well-being better than any of our domain indices used separately. Although the index is constructed using the Russian Gender and Generation Survey data for 2007, the methodological approach that we applied can be easily replicated in other surveys which contain information on several aspects of material well-being.


Material well-being Household income Multidimensional index Reference groups Gender and Generation Survey Russia 



Support from the Basic Research Programme of the National Research University Higher School of Economics is gratefully acknowledged (TOR-36: The impact of changes in economic and social policies on consumer behavior of the population and fostering conditions for active aging, 2015). The views expressed are those of the authors. We are the only responsible for any errors as well.


  1. Alkire, S., Ballon, P., et al. (2015). Multidimensional poverty measurement and analysis: A counting approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bellani, L. (2013). Multidimensional indices of deprivation: The introduction of reference groups weights. The Journal of Economic Inequality, 11(4), 495–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boarini, R., & Mira d’Ercole, M. (2006). Measure of material deprivation in OECD countries. OECD Social Employment and Migration Working Papers No. 37. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  4. Breen, R. (2005). Foundations of neo-Weberian class analysis. In E. O. Wright (Ed.), Approaches to class analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cronbach, L. J. (1951). Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests. Psychometrika, 16, 297–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. De Neubourg, C., De Milliano, M., et al. (2014). Lost (in) dimensions: Consolidating progress in multidimensional poverty research. Innocenti Working Paper No. 2014-04. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research.Google Scholar
  7. Deaton, A. (1997). The analysis of household surveys: A microeconometric approach to development policy. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Deaton, A., & Zaidi, S. (2002). Guidelines for constructing consumption aggregates for welfare analysis. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  9. Decancq, K., & Lugo, M. A. (2013). Weights in multidimensional indices of wellbeing: An overview. Econometric Reviews, 32(1), 7–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gimpelson, V., & Kapeliushnikov, R. (2011). Labour market adjustment: Is Russia different? IZA Discussion Paper No. 5588. Bonn: The Institute of Study of Labour.Google Scholar
  11. Goedeme, T., & Rottiers, S. (2011). Poverty in the enlarged European Union. A discussion about definitions and reference groups. Sociology Compass, 5(1), 77–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gordon, D., Adelman, L., et al. (2000). Poverty and social exclusion in Britain. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
  13. Gorodnichenko, Y., Sabirianova Peter, K., et al. (2010). Inequality and volatility moderation in Russia: Evidence from micro-level panel data on consumption and income. Review of Economic Dynamics, 13(1), 209–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grusky, D., & Weeden, K. (2008). Are there social classes? An empirical test of the sociologist’s favorite concept. In A. Lareau & D. Conley (Eds.), Social class: How does it work?. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  15. Hallerod, B. (1994). A new approach to the direct consensual measurement of poverty. Social Policy Research Centre Discussion Papers No 50. Sydney: University of New South Wales.Google Scholar
  16. Jacobs, R., & Smith, P., et al. (2004). Measuring performance: An examination of composite performance indicators. CHE Technical Paper Series 29, Centre for Health Economics, University of York.Google Scholar
  17. Klugman, J. (Ed.). (1997). Poverty in Russia: Public policy and private responses. Washington, DC: IBRD/World bank.Google Scholar
  18. Land, K. C., Michalos, A. C., et al. (Eds.). (2012). Handbook of social indicators and quality of life research. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  19. Levitas, R., Pantazis, C., et al. (2007). The multidimensional analysis of social exclusion. London, Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG); also available online at
  20. Mack, J., & Lansley, S. (1985). Poor Britain. London: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  21. Merton, R. K., & Rossi, A. S. (1968). Contributions to the theory of reference group behavior. In R. K. Merton, Social theory and social structure. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  22. Nardo, M., Saisana, M., et al. (2005). Tools for composite indicators building EUR 21682 EN, Joint Research Centre, European Commission.Google Scholar
  23. Nolan, B., & Whelan, C. T. (1996). Resources, deprivation and the measurement of poverty. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  24. OECD. (2008). Handbook on constructing composite indicators. Methodology and user guide. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  25. OECD. (2011). How’s life? Measuring well-being. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  26. OECD. (2013). OECD guidelines on measuring subjective well-being. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  27. Ovcharova, L., Pishniak, A., et al. (2006). Development of the methodology for defining the subsistence minimum given the new approaches to its calculation. Scientific report prepared for the Ministry of Health and Social Development Moscow Independent Institute for Social Policy.Google Scholar
  28. Ovcharova, L., & Popova, D. (2005). Child Poverty in Russia. Alarming trends and policy options. Moscow: UNICEF.Google Scholar
  29. Ovcharova, L., Popova, D., et al. (2007). New measures supporting families with children: Encouragement of the birthrate or improvement of the living standards? An analysis of the maternity and child support measures introduced in 2007 in the Russian Federation. Moscow: UNICEF.Google Scholar
  30. Ovcharova, L., & Tesliuk, E. D. (2006). Poverty and inequality in Russia: Sensitivity of poverty and inequality statistics to alternative definitions of households welfare. Illustration using the NOBUS survey. Moscow: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  31. Pantisano, F., & Craglia, M., et al. (2014). New indicators of quality of life: A review of the literature, projects and applications. WP 2014—Deviverable 201401, Citizen Science Observatory of new Indicators of Urban Substainability (project 1076), European Commission.Google Scholar
  32. Popova, D. (2013). Country note: Russian Federation. Civil 20 proposals for strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth. Moscow: UNDP.Google Scholar
  33. Ravallion, M. (1994). Poverty comparisons. Chur: Harwood Academic Publishers GmbH.Google Scholar
  34. Ravallion, M. (2012). On multidimensional indices of poverty. Journal of Economic Inequality, 9, 235–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rig, J., & Sefton, T. (2006). Income dynamics and the life cycle. Journal of Social Policy, 35(3), 411–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rowntree, B. (1901). Poverty—A study of town life. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  37. Schokkaert, E. (2007). Capabilities and satisfaction with life. Journal of Human Development, 8(5), 415–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sen, A. K. (1976). Poverty: An ordinal approach to measurement. Econometrica, 44(2), 219–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sen, A. K., & Foster, J. E. (1997). On economic inequality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Stiglitz, J. E., Sen, A. K., et al. (2009). Report by the commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress. Paris: Available online from the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress:
  41. Townsend, P. (1979). Poverty in the United Kingdom: A survey of household resources and standards of living. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  42. UNDP. (2014). Human Development Report, 2014. Sustaining human progress: Reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience. New York, NY: United Nations Development Programme.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. UNDP (2011). National Human Development Report for the Russian Federation 2011. Modernisation and human development. Moscow: UNDP.Google Scholar
  44. UNICEF. (2011). The situation analysis of children in the Russian Federation: On the way to the equal opportunity society. Moscow: UNICEF.Google Scholar
  45. Whelan, C. T., & Maitre, B. (2009). The ‘Europeanisation’ of Reference Groups. A reconsideration using EU-SILC. European Societies, 11(2), 283–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Whelan, C. T., & Maître, B. (2010). Welfare regime and social class variation in poverty and economic vulnerability in Europe: An analysis of EU-SILC. Journal of European Social policy, 20, 316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Whelan, C. T., Nolan, B., et al. (2014). Multidimensional poverty measurement in Europe: An application of the adjusted headcount approach. Journal of European Social Policy, 24(2), 183–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Willitts, M. (2006). Measuring child poverty using material deprivation: Possible approaches. Department for Work and Pensions Working Paper No 28.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social and Economic ResearchUniversity of EssexColchesterUK
  2. 2.Centre for Analysis of Income and Living StandardsNational Research University – Higher School of EconomicsMoscowRussian Federation

Personalised recommendations