The U.N. Has Been Undercounting the World’s Poor—by 400 Million
Friday, June 20, 2014
Poverty got redefined this week.
The Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) released a report, the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2014 (MPI), on Tuesday looking at the state of poverty in the world today. It is being touted as the most accurate reflection of the world’s poor, a sort of census of the global impoverished population.
Didn’t that exist already? For more than a decade, the United Nations Development Programme has measured world poverty using its Human Poverty Index (HPI). The HPI defined poverty as those making less than $1.25 a day.
But it lacked in two key areas. First, it counted countries as one whole mass, unable to differentiate degrees of poverty within a country and locate the worst pockets. And second, it placed all of its scrutiny on income, without considering other indicators such as health and education.
Sure, making a certain amount a day is one way to measure the physical comforts a person might be lacking: home, food, clothing. But what about limited (or a total lack of) access to medical care? Or barriers to getting an education? And just because someone has a roof over his or head doesn’t mean it’s a sanitary, safe place to live—impoverished people in cities are often concentrated in slums where open sewage, crowding, and rickety housing make for dangerous living conditions. Consequently, many didn’t consider HPI’s income index to be particularly accurate.
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