Social Indicators Research

, Volume 144, Issue 3, pp 1055–1074 | Cite as

Testing the Expert Based Weights Used in the UK’s Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) Against Three Preference-Based Methods

  • Verity WatsonEmail author
  • Chris Dibben
  • Matt Cox
  • Iain Atherton
  • Matt Sutton
  • Mandy Ryan
Original Research


The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), used widely in England, is an important tool for social need and inequality identification. It summarises deprivation across seven dimensions (income, employment, health, education, housing and services, environment, and crime) to measure an area’s multidimensional deprivation. The IMD aggregates the dimensions that are differentially weighted using expert judgement. In this paper, we test how close these weights are to society’s preferences about the relative importance of each dimension to overall deprivation. There is not agreement in the literature on how to do this. This paper, therefore, develops and compares three empirical methods for estimating preference-based weights. We find the weights are similar across the methods, and between our empirical methods and the current IMD, but our findings suggest a change to two of the weights.


Multidimensional index weights Deprivation Preferences 

JEL Classification

C43 C83 D12 I32 



The paper has benefitted from helpful comments and suggestions from Koen Decancq, Rainer Schulz, and participants at the Weighting in Multidimensional Measures workshop at OPHI, Oxford, the Overseas Development Workshop at ODI, London, seminar participants at Universiteit Antwerpen, and conference participants at New Directions in Welfare III, Paris. Any errors or omissions, of course, remain the responsibility of the authors. The project was funded by the Department of the Communities and Local Government. The Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates funds HERU. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors only and not those of the funding bodies.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 142 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Verity Watson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chris Dibben
    • 2
  • Matt Cox
    • 3
  • Iain Atherton
    • 4
  • Matt Sutton
    • 5
  • Mandy Ryan
    • 1
  1. 1.Health Economics Research UnitUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK
  2. 2.School of GeosciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  3. 3.School of Geography and GeosciencesUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK
  4. 4.School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social CareEdinburgh Napier UniversityEdinburghUK
  5. 5.Institute of Population HealthUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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