Measuring Poverty

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The global community signed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, setting a global agenda to 2030. With a focus on leaving no one behind, the SDGs necessitate individual-level data and meaningful measurement of the many dimensions of poverty. We can’t see who is being left behind without quality data about individuals.

Currently, poverty measurement tells us about households but hides the circumstances of individuals within households. Poverty measurement currently focusses mainly on money, or a limited range of other aspects of life such as health and education, when there are many other factors that also matter to poor men and women.

To know what is changing for whom, the goals need to be properly measured, and right now, existing approaches to measuring poverty and gender disparity suffer from a variety of flaws.

The Individual Deprivation Measure (IDM) was developed to address these issues. It will be ready for global use by 2020, and facilitates the collection of individual, intersectional and intrahousehold data, overcoming current data limitations.

Data Limitations

Current poverty measures do not produce the data that policy makers and the global community need to chart progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. They exclude important dimensions of deprivation and take the household rather than the individual as the unit of analysis, meaning accurate disaggregation is impossible. They cannot reveal gender disparities, or help us understand how gender interacts with age, disability, caste and more to shape outcomes and opportunities. As Melinda Gates noted, “to close the gender gap, we must first close the gender data gap”.

Most existing measures of poverty are not grounded in the views of people with lived experience of poverty, about how poverty should be defined and measured. This ultimately limits our understanding of the investments that must be made to achieve the SDGs in a way that leaves no one behind.

Without individual level data, we’re missing crucial details of the specific needs of people living in – or at risk of – poverty. By closing the gender data gap and collecting information that helps us see what needs to change for diverse women and men, policy makers can target programs and expenditure where these are needed most, ensuring we deliver on the 2030 agenda.

To read more about the data limitations that informed development of the IDM, read the IDM Research Report.

SDGs and data for change

In September 2015, the global community adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. The IDM can play a role in achieving the goals.

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