The Multidimensionality of Child Poverty: Evidence from Afghanistan

Abstract

This paper examines multidimensional poverty among children in Afghanistan using the Alkire-Foster method. Several previous studies have underlined the need to separate children from their adult nexus when studying poverty and treat them according to their own specificities. From the capability approach, child poverty is understood to be the lack of freedom to do and to be what children themselves value and have reason to value. The case of Afghanistan is particularly relevant as years of conflict aggravated by several severe droughts, political insecurity, bad governance and ongoing violence have significantly increased poverty in the country. The paper discusses the relevant dimensions when analysing child poverty and uses data from a survey carried out by Handicap International which contains information on dimensions of children’s wellbeing that is typically missing in standard surveys. Ten dimension are considered in this paper: health, care and love, material deprivation, food security, social inclusion, education, freedom from economic and non-economic exploitation, shelter and environment, autonomy, and mobility. Our results show that younger children, those living in rural areas, girls and disabled children are the most deprived.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The maternal mortality ratio was 1,600 per 100,000 in 2001, the infant mortality rate was 165 and the under five mortality rate was 257 (UNICEF 2004).

  2. 2.

    Mehrotra (2006), Roelen and Gassmann (2008) White et al. (2002), Camfield et al. (2009).

  3. 3.

    In another report for OECD countries (UNICEF 2007) the analysis was extended to six separate dimensions: material deprivation, health and safety, education, children’s relationships, behaviour and lifestyles and subjective wellbeing. Although for some of these dimensions the link to CRC it is not clear (Roelen and Gassmann 2008).

  4. 4.

    Among other approaches there is the Childhood Poverty Research and Policy Centre (CHIP) that defines child poverty as growing up in the absence of any of the factors listed below which constitutes childhood poverty: an adequate livelihood—the financial and nutritional resources needed for survival and development (economic, physical and environmental resources); opportunities for human development—including access to quality education and life skills, health and water/sanitation (social, cultural and physical resources); family and community structures that nurture and protect them—parents/guardians with time (or ability/desire) to care for them; an extended family/community that can cope if parents and guardians are not able (or not there); or a community that cares for and protects its younger generation (social and cultural resources); and opportunities for voice—powerlessness and lack of voice (political resources) often underpin other aspects of poverty (this also applies to adults) (Minujin et al. 2006, p. 487)

  5. 5.

    Instruments were all translated into Farsi and Pashto with iterative back-translation methods and tested with a pilot survey carried out between November 19 and November 30, 2004. We found a Cronbach’s α = 0.85 showing a good internal consistency of the screening tool. The training of the 15 trainers and monitors, the 24 supervisors as well as the 112 interviewers took place in 6 major cities. Trainers and monitors were medical doctors from the Ministry of Public Health with previous experience in large-scale surveys. Interviewers, who were recruited locally for security purposes, had a high-school level education and were trained in survey concepts and goals, disability issues and awareness, interview techniques, mine risk awareness, and security information. This was followed by review, testing and debriefing. The study received ethical approval from the Committee on Human Research of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and from the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan.

  6. 6.

    As in Alkire 2008, here “domain” and “dimension” are used interchangeably.

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Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge the European Commission, UNOPS/UNDP UNMAS (Volunteer Trust Fund), Ambassade de France en Afghanistan, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Handicap International for funding the National Disability Survey in Afghanistan research project. They benefited hugely from the comments of the participants of the OPHI Workshop on Multidimensional Measures in Six Contexts (Oxford, 1–2 June 2009), IX ISQOLS Conference (Florence, 19–23 July 2009) and HDCA Annual Conference (Lima, 10–12 September 2009). In particular they are grateful for the comments of Sabina Alkire, Masood Awan, Conchita D’Ambrosio, James Foster, Rozana Himaz, Filomena Maggino, Jose Manuel Roche, Maria Emma Santos and Sarah Valenti. They are also grateful to Parul Bakhshi and Ellie Cole for useful comments on drafts of this paper. They also want to warmly thank the 5,130 families of Afghanistan who kindly received interviewers and answered their questions. They retain responsibility for the opinions expressed in the paper.

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Appendix

Appendix

The following is a description of dimensions of wellbeing used for the purpose of this paper. The choices made to determine the cutoff in each dimension are based on the literature as well as on observations made by one of the authors during fieldwork. Obviously, the subjectivity of these choices indicating the level of poverty can be questioned. More research is needed to ensure a more objective method for selecting cutoffs.

  1. 1.

    Health

    What are the main sources of drinking water for your household?

    • 1 = piped into residence/compound/plot

    • 2 = public tap

    • 3 = hand pump in residence/compound/plot

    • 4 = public hand-pump

    • 5 = well in residence/compound/plot

    • 6 = covered well

    • 7 = open well and kariz

    • 8 = spring

    • 9 = river/ stream

    • 10 = pond/lake

    • 11 = still water

    • 12 = rain water

    • 13 = tanker/truck

    • 14 = other (specify)

    The child is deprived on this dimension if the answer is 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 13 or 14.

  2. 2.

    Care

    Who takes care of your child besides yourself?

    • 1 = mother

    • 2 = father

    • 3 = sister/brother

    • 4 = he/she herself or himself

    • 5 = other children

    • 6 = other member of the family

    • 7 = mullah

    • 8 = other leader of the community

    • 9 = other member of the community

    • 10 = no one

    • 11 = other (specify)

    The child is deprived on this dimension if the mother is not taking care of him or her.

  3. 3.

    Family assets

    Does any member of your household own any of the following?

    • I = radio, tape recorder

    • II = television

    • III = pressure cooker

    • IV = oven, hotplate

    • V = refrigerator

    • VI = traditional stove/bukhari

    • VII = bicycle

    • VIII = motorbike

    • IX = car

    • X = tractor

    • XI = generator

    • XII = kerosene lamp

    • XIII = sewing machine

    The child is deprived in this dimension if the family has less than six assets. If the family owns a tractor or a car the child is automatically set as non-deprived.

  4. 4.

    Food Security

    Material deprivation of the children How often does your household get enough to eat?

    • 1 = always enough

    • 2 = sometimes not enough

    • 3 = frequently not enough

    • 4 = always not enough

    • 5 = enough but with poor quality

    The child is deprived in this dimension if the answer is 3 or 4.

  5. 5.

    Social inclusion

    • Has anyone ever ill-treated your child?

    • Did you and your child take part in any ceremony during the past year?

    • Is your child engaged or married?

    The child is deprived on this dimension if the answer is “yes” on at least one of the questions.

  6. 6.

    Education

    • Has the person received some education?

    • The child is deprived in this dimension if he has received no education.

  7. 7.

    Freedom from economic and non-economic exploitation and leisure activities

    • How many hours per day does your child spend on household tasks?

    • How many hours per day does your child spend on fieldwork during the season of work?

    • How many hours per day does your child spend on work outside the house?

    • The child is deprived in this dimension if he or she works more than two and a half hour per day.

  8. 8.

    Shelter and environment

    • How many people per room are there in your household?

    • The child is deprived in this dimension if he or she lives in a house with three or more people per room

Dimensions 9 and 10 consist of a set of items that help establish a score in the given dimension. These dimensions are respectively constituted of six and five items to which the respondents had the choice between three possibilities. Each of these answers was given a certain score: 0 for “yes I can do it”, 1 for “yes, I can do it but with difficulty”, and 2 for “no, I cannot do it”. As a result, the higher the score on each dimension, the higher the level of difficulties the child faces in the given dimension.

A score indicator is constructed by adding up the answers. A score between 1 and 3 is considered to be “Mild Difficulty”; a score between 4 and 6 is “Moderate Difficulty”; a score between 7 and 9 is “Severe Difficulty”; and finally, a score between 10 and 12 is considered to be “Very Severe Difficulty”.

  1. 9.

    Personal autonomy

    Is your child able to do the following?

    • I = bathing/ablutions

    • II = getting dressed

    • III = preparing meals for yourself

    • IV = going to the toilet

    • V = eating/drinking

    • VI = moving around

    The child is deprived in this dimension if he or she has at least moderate difficulty (which corresponds to a score between 3 and 5).

  2. 10.

    Mobility

    What is he or she able to do outside the house/compound? (N.B.: Ask this question if the child is over 8)

    • I = climbing stairs

    • II = going to the bazaar/shop

    • III = carrying water

    • IV = working in the field

    • V = riding a bicycle/or animal

The child is deprived in this dimension if he or she has at least moderate difficulty (which corresponds to a score between 3 and 5).

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Trani, J., Biggeri, M. & Mauro, V. The Multidimensionality of Child Poverty: Evidence from Afghanistan. Soc Indic Res 112, 391–416 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-013-0253-7

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Keywords

  • Multidimensional poverty measurement
  • Capability approach
  • Children