Social Indicators Research

, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 337–362 | Cite as

Multidimensional Measurement of Poverty Among Women in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Yélé Maweki BatanaEmail author


Since the seminal work of Sen, poverty has been recognized as a multidimensional phenomenon. The recent availability of relevant databases renewed the interest in this approach. This paper estimates multidimensional poverty among women in fourteen Sub-Saharan African countries using the Alkire and Foster multidimensional poverty measures, whose identification method is based on a counting approach. Four dimensions are considered: assets, health, schooling and empowerment. The results show important differences in poverty among the countries of the sample. The multidimensional poverty estimates are compared with some alternative measures such as the Human Development Index, income poverty, asset poverty and the Gender-related Development Index. It is found that including additional dimensions into the analysis leads to country rankings different from those obtained with the mentioned four measures. Decompositions by geographical area and dimension indicate that rural areas are significantly poorer than urban ones and that a lack of schooling is, in general, the highest contributor to poverty. The paper also conducts robustness and sensitivity analyses of the multidimensional estimates with respect to the number of dimensions in which deprivation is required in order to be considered poor, as well as to the poverty lines within each dimension. Several cases of dominance between countries are found in the first robustness test.


Multidimensional poverty Counting approach Robustness analysis Sub-Saharan Africa 



I am grateful to OPHI for financial support. I am also grateful for significant comments from Sabina Alkire and three anonymous referees, and for the input of Maria Emma Santos and David Vazquez-Guzman.


  1. Alkire, S. & Foster, J. (2007). Counting and multidimensional poverty measurement. OPHI working paper series no. 07. The University of Oxford.Google Scholar
  2. Alkire, S., & Foster, J. (2011). Counting and multidimensional poverty measurement. Journal of Public Economics, 95, 476–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, G., Crawford, I., & Leicester, A. (2008). Efficiency analysis and the lower convex hull approach. In N. Kakwani & J. Silber (Eds.), Quantitative approaches to multidimensional poverty measurement (pp. 176–191). New York: Palgrave-MacMillan.Google Scholar
  4. Atkinson, A. B. (1987). On the measurement of poverty. Econometrica, 55, 749–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Atkinson, A. B. (2003). Multidimensional deprivation: Contrasting social welfare and counting approaches. Journal of Economic Inequality, 1, 51–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Batana, Y. M., & Duclos, J.-Y. (2010). Multidimensional poverty among West African children: testing for robust poverty comparisons. In J. M. Cockburn & J. Kabubo-Mariara (Eds.), Child welfare in developing countries (pp. 95–122). New York: Springer/PEP/CRDI.F.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Batana, Y. M., & Duclos, J.-Y. (2011). Comparing multidimensional poverty with qualitative indicators of well-being. In J. Deutsch & J. Silber (Eds.), The measurement of individual well-being and group inequalities: Essays in memory of Z. M. Berrebi. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Booysen, F., Von Maltitz, M., Van Der Berg, S., Burger, R., & Du Rand, G. (2008). Using an asset index to assess trends in poverty in seven Sub-Saharan African countries. World Development,. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2007.10.008.Google Scholar
  9. Bourguignon, F., & Chakravarty, S. R. (2003). The measurement of multidimensional poverty. Journal of Economic Inequality, 1, 25–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cerioli, A., & Zani, S. (1990). A fuzzy approach to the measurement of poverty. In C. Dagum & M. Zenga (Eds.), Income and wealth inequality and poverty (pp. 272–284). Berlin: Spring.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cheli, B., & Lemmi, A. (1994). A “totally” fuzzy and relative approach to the multidimensional analysis of poverty. Economic Notes, 24, 115–134.Google Scholar
  12. Chiappero-Martinetti, E. (2006). Capability approach and fuzzy set theory: Description, aggregation and inference issues. In A. Lemmi & G. Betti (Eds.), Fuzzy set approach to multidimensional poverty measurement. New York: Spring.Google Scholar
  13. Davidson, R., & Duclos, J.-Y. (2006). Testing for restricted stochastic dominance. IZA discussion paper no. 2047, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).Google Scholar
  14. Deaton, A. (1997). The analysis of household surveys: A microeconometric approach to development policy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press for the World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Deutsch, J., & Silber, J. (2005). Measuring multidimensional poverty: An empirical comparison of various approaches. Review of Income and Wealth, 51, 145–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Duclos, J.-Y., Sahn, D. E., & Younger, S. D. (2006a). Robust multidimensional spatial poverty comparisons in Ghana, Madagascar and Uganda. World Bank Economic Review, 20, 91–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Duclos, J.-Y., Sahn, D. E., & Younger, S. D. (2006b). Robust multidimensional poverty comparison. Economic Journal, 113, 943–968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Foster, J. E., Greer, J., & Thorbecke, E. (1984). A class of decomposable poverty measures. Econometrica, 52, 761–766.Google Scholar
  19. Foster, J. E., McGillivray, M., & Seth, S. (2009). Rank robustness of composite indices. OPHI working paper 26, The University of Oxford.Google Scholar
  20. Foster, J. E., & Shorrocks, A. F. (1988a). Poverty orderings and welfare dominance. Social Choice Welfare, 5, 179–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Foster, J. E., & Shorrocks, A. F. (1988b). Poverty orderings. Econometrica, 56, 173–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ibrahim, S., & Alkire, S. (2007). Agency and empowerment: A proposal for internationally comparable indicators. Oxford Development Studies, 35, 379–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Klasen, S. (2000). Measuring poverty and deprivation in South Africa. Review of Income and Wealth, 46, 33–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lovell, C. A. K., Richardson, S., Travers, P., & Wood, L. (1994). Resources and functionings: A new view of inequality in Australia. In W. Eichhorn (Ed.), Models and measurement of welfare and inequality. Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  25. Maasoumi, E. (1993). A compendium to information theory in economics and econometrics. Econometric Reviews, 12, 1–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Maasoumi, E., & Lugo, M. A. (2008). The information basis of multivariate poverty assessments. In N. Kakwani & J. Silber (Eds.), Quantitative approaches to multidimensional poverty measurement (pp. 1–29). New York: Palgrave-MacMillan.Google Scholar
  27. Sahn, D. E., & Stifel, D. C. (2000). Poverty comparisons over time and across countries in Africa. World Development, 28, 2123–2155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sahn, D. E., & Stifel, D. C. (2003a). Exploring alternative measures of welfare in the absence of expenditure data. Review of Income and Wealth, 49, 463–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sahn, D. E., & Stifel, D. C. (2003b). Urban-rural inequality in living standards in Africa. Journal of African Economies, 12, 564–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Samman, E., & Santos, M. E. (2009). Agency and empowerment: A review of concepts, indicators and empirical evidence. Prepared for the 2009 Human Development Report in Latin America and the Caribbean, May.Google Scholar
  31. Sen, A. (1976). Poverty: An ordinal approach to measurement. Econometrica, 44, 219–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sen, A. (1985). Commodities and capabilities. Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  33. Sen, A. (1992). Inequality reexamined. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Sen, A. (1995). The political economy of targeting. In D. van der Walle & K. Nead (Eds.), Public spending and the poor: Theory and evidence. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Tsui, K.-Y. (2002). Multidimensional poverty indices. Social Choice and Welfare, 19, 69–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Von Maltzahn, R., & Durrheim, K. (2008). Is poverty multidimensional? A comparison of income and asset based measures in five Southern Africa countries. Social Indicators Research, 86, 149–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Watts, H. (1968). An economic definition of poverty. In D. P. Moynihan (Ed.), On understanding poverty. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.World BankWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.OPHI, Queen Elizabeth HouseUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations