The measurement of multidimensional poverty across countries: a proposal for selecting dimensions

Burchi, Francesco / Nicole Rippin / Claudio E. Montenegro
External Publications (2020)

in: Valentin Beck / Henning Hahn / Robert Lepenies (Hrsg.), Dimensions of poverty measurement, epistemic injustices, activism, Berlin: Springer, Chapter 14

ISBN: 978-3-030-31710-2

An adequate cross-country comparison of multidimensional poverty requires sound poverty measures. This paper focuses on two central, but often neglected, challenges: the identification of the best theoretical framework and the selection of poverty dimensions. Regarding the first problem, it is argued that Amartya Sen’s capability approach provides the most rigorous analytical apparatus since it views poverty in terms of people’s lack of freedom to live a life they have reason to value, rather than as deprivation of means (income/commodities). In line with the capability approach, the paper then proposes a new solution to the problem of how to select dimensions of poverty. It consists of the expansion of the Constitutional Approach, recently developed by Burchi, De Muro and Kollar, according to which (some) national constitutions could be used as sources of ethically sound poverty dimensions. This approach, so far implemented only at the national level, could be extended to the international context by looking at a minimum list of overlapping dimensions across several countries. Finally, the paper applies this approach, examining several constitutions from all world regions, and supplementing it with three other well-known approaches to the identification of poverty dimensions: the public consensus approach, participatory studies, and surveys. This exercise leads to a clear list of valuable dimensions for international comparisons of poverty. We conclude that international poverty indicators should ideally always contain at least the dimensions of health, education and decent employment.

About the authors

Burchi, Francesco

Development Economy


Rippin, Nicole



Further experts

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