Social Indicators Research

, Volume 135, Issue 1, pp 75–89 | Cite as

Measuring and Monitoring Poverty and Well-Being: A New Approach for the Synthesis of Multidimensionality

  • Vincenzo Mauro
  • Mario BiggeriEmail author
  • Filomena Maggino


The aim of this paper is to introduce a new approach for the synthesis and analysis of multidimensional poverty and well-being indicators. Our general perspective is inspired by the theoretical foundations of the capability approach and sustainable human development paradigm. The new synthesis of indicators aims at monitoring outcomes of units of interest. Its defining features include: full sensitiveness, continuity, flexibility in substitution between dimensions, and the straightforward interpretation of the results. All these properties are obtained through a transparent and accountable process that is fully open to public scrutiny and reason (as suggested by Amartya Sen). The main contribution of this approach is that the degree of substitutability between dimensions can be directly linked to the general level of well-being of a person, which addresses the so-called “inescapable arbitrariness” issue discussed by Anand and Sen (Concepts of human development and poverty: a multidimensional perspective. Human Development Papers. UNDP, New York, 1997). The new synthesis proposed opens up new possibilities for different types of applications, including monitoring and evaluating development programmes.


Measurement Multidimensional well-being Multidimensional poverty Composite Multidimensional Index Sustainable human development Capability approach 



This is part of a long term research project on Human development measurement started in 2009. Consequently, the authors would like to thank many different people and institutions. Financial support from the Europe Aid project “Umanamente” in the early phase of the research project with Oxfam Italy (2009/2010) is gratefully acknowledged. The authors are also grateful to Caterina Arciprete, Enrica Chiappero Martinetti, David A. Clark, Flavio Comim, Pasquale De Muro, Marco Fattore, Alex Apsan Frediani, Maria Laura Di Tommaso, Andrea Ferrannini, Richard Jolly, Martina Mennon, Federico Perali, Gustav Ranis for their comments. This paper has also benefited from comments received from participants at the following events: the conference on “Twenty Years of Human Development: The Past and the Future of the Human Development Index”, St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, UK, 28–29, January 2010; the PRIN project events between 2011 and 2013 financed by MIUR; the workshop on “Capabitaly” in Rome 7 April 2014; the conference of AIQUAV in Florence, December 2015; and finally the Cambridge Capability Conference, at the Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge, 13–14 June 2016. The authors have also benefited from continuous interactions with academics participating in the Italian colloquia on the Capability Approach. The usual disclaimers apply.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and ManagementUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Department of StatisticsUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

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