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To achieve the goal of gender-sensitive multidimensional poverty measurement, the IDM methodology comprises three main components: a survey tool; a sampling approach; and a composite index.

The survey tool

The IDM survey tool is a series of modules, structured according to survey flow and thematic area, asked of multiple adults in the household. The survey assesses household members across fifteen dimensions. It also collects demographic details and information about asset wealth, disability, mental health, and subjective wellbeing. The survey includes two questionnaires: a household questionnaire answered by one knowledgeable household member, and an individual questionnaire, answered by each individual interviewed in the household.

The first version of the IDM survey was developed following extensive participatory research and included a combination of questions drawn from existing globally standard surveys, and new questions where existing data collection did not appropriately capture the relevant IDM dimension. This survey was then piloted in the Philippines, re-administered in Fiji, revised based on performance in Fiji and re-administered in Nepal, and then revised again based on all results, an updated literature review, global measurement developments and expert peer review. Following this work, the measure was again re-administered in Indonesia.


These revisions focused on ensuring the IDM survey is truly multidimensional, gender-sensitive, and inclusive in its understanding of poverty – consistent with the views of women and men with lived experience of deprivation – without being excessively lengthy.

Image showing the 15 IDM dimensions: food, water, shelter, health, education, energy/fuel, sanitation, relationships, clothing, violence, family planning, the environment, voice, time use and work.

The sampling approach

The IDM’s unique sampling approach to date has been to survey multiple individuals in the same household, allowing both individual-level and household-level information. Further sampling considerations include:

  • Representativeness (how well the sample represents the population it aims to assess)
  • Precision (to what extent the sample can be generalised to the population)
  • Gender-sensitivity (to what extent the sample can reveal differences between men and women);
  • Within- and between- household insights (to what extent is deprivation located within or between households?).

The IDM team is also investigating the ideal number of individuals to survey per household. Is sampling every individual required, or could very similar information be achieved interviewing two members of the household? How many return visits to a single household area are necessary, and how might this be weighed against resource constraints in different contexts? How does the way we define household impact the results? Exploring these questions is a crucial part of the ongoing IDM program.

Image of a woman in Nepal taking part in the IDM study in 2015/6.
Photo: Alice Floyd/IWDA

The composite index

The IDM composite index is a method of aggregating an individual’s results on each of the 15 dimensions into a single score. This score identifies an individual’s level of deprivation on a scale from extremely deprived to not deprived.  Scores for each of the fifteen dimensions can also be categorised across four levels of deprivation. Dimension scores can be compared to each other, or correlated with the overall IDM index score. Individuals or groups can be compared in terms of their overall IDM score, or by dimensions. The overlap between deprivation in different dimensions can also be revealed. In constructing a composite index of deprivation, an important consideration is the setting of weights for the various dimensions, in which heavier weights reflect the perceived importance of the dimension. For that reason, the method of weighting can have important policy implications.

Each element of the IDM methodology is subject to ongoing investigation as IDM use increases understanding about the power of gender-sensitive multidimensional poverty measurement. To learn more about the most recent updates in the IDM methodology, see the latest Methodology Update.

Image of two enumerators standing with a woman in Nepal as the survey is carried out.
Photo: Alice Floyd/IWDA