Global trends in multidimensional poverty and horizontal inequalities in poverty

Burchi, Francesco / Daniele Malerba
External Publications (2023)

in: UNDESA - Expert Group Meeting on the Implementation of the third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2018-2027), Draft paper (May 2023)


The paper is one of the first attempts to assess trends in multidimensional poverty for a large number of countries. Using two innovative indices of poverty on a sample of 85 countries, it shows that 85% made a progress in multidimensional poverty alleviation. On average, multidimensional poverty declined annually by 0.41 pp. in absolute terms, and by 2.4% in relative terms. However, progress has been uneven across regions. In particular, a non-negligible share of countries in SSA (around 25%) experienced an increase in poverty. SSA was also the region with the slowest relative reduction in poverty. SAS and ECA, instead, reduced poverty in relative terms significantly more than the other regions. A comparative analysis of income and multidimensional poverty trends reveals that the two forms of poverty, despite a general positive correlation, may even move in opposite directions and that multidimensional poverty has declined substantially less (about 3-4 times) than income poverty. Multidimensional poverty alleviation was driven especially by improvements in education and health, and by the performance of rural areas. In fact, rural poverty reduction exceeded urban poverty reduction, contributing to narrow down the rural-urban poverty ratio from 3.1 to 2.7. Gender disparities in multidimensional poverty are still large, with female poverty being about 60% higher than male poverty. In conclusion, this paper shows that - once we consider non-monetary dimensions - the progress in poverty eradication has not been as remarkable as believed and calls for stronger efforts in tackling the different forms of poverty. Indeed, interventions succeeding in alleviating income poverty are not necessarily effective in reducing multidimensional poverty (and vice versa): in particular, empirical evidence points to a limited effect of economic growth. Finally, economic and social policies should primarily focus on SSA, rural areas, women and on ensuring decent jobs.

About the authors

Burchi, Francesco

Development Economy


Further experts

Balasubramanian, Pooja

Social Economics 

Brüntrup, Michael

Agricultural Economy 

Christ, Simone

Social Anthropology 

Dick, Eva

Sociologist and Spatial Planner 

Dippel, Beatrice


Faus Onbargi, Alexia

Political Science 

Friesen, Ina

Political Science 

Jaji, Rose


Mchowa, Chifundo

Development Economics 

Mudimu, George Tonderai

Agricultural policy economics 

Roll, Michael


Sowa, Alina


Stöcker, Alexander


Zintl, Tina

Political Scientist