Multidimensional Poverty: Measurement and Implications

An Interview with James Foster

by Roger Williamson

17 October 2013

James Foster describes the importance of moving beyond income poverty as a way of assessing 'who is poor?' and 'how poor?'. Multidimensional poverty includes dimensions such as education, health, living conditions, and sanitation. Latin and Central American governments (initially Mexico) pushed for effective measurement, and the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) was taken up by UNDP in the Human Development Report.

Foster discusses different aspects of inclusive growth. Vertical distribution refers to whether additional income goes to the top or the bottom earners. Horizontal distribution describes the distribution between groups (e.g., women and men; ethnic groups).

He concludes by describing UNU-WIDER's role as an incubator for many of the ideas related to human development, Amartya Sen's influence, and his own work with UNU-WIDER. 

James Foster is Professor of Economics and International Affairs, George Washington University, co-developer of the Alkire-Foster method for calculating the MPI.

by Roger Williamson

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