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Introducing the Individual Deprivation Measure

A new way of measuring poverty.

You’ve probably heard about the poverty line – the amount of money that is often used as the minimum daily amount a person needs to avoid poverty. Sometimes calculated as US$2.00 a day, or US$1.25 a day, this amount is intended to provide a universal way to measure how many people in the world are poor. It is used, for example, by the United Nations to measure the world’s progress in fighting poverty.

What you might not realise is that this measure is flawed.

We’ve been measuring poverty wrong.

Right now, the world only measures the poverty of households. This means that we are blind to the circumstances of individual people within households. Furthermore, poverty measurement also focuses mainly on money – when there are other important factors that also matter to poor women and men.

What’s wrong with that?

  • We can’t tell how gender, age, disability and ethnicity affect the poverty of an individual.
  • We don’t take the views of poor women and men into account.
  • We don’t understand poverty as well as we could – which means we’re not doing everything we can to fix it.

What’s the solution?

To address these gaps, IWDA was part of an international research collaboration that spent four years developing a better way to measure poverty: the Individual Deprivation Measure. We began by interviewing poor women and men in six countries across Asia, Africa and the Pacific to learn how they would define and measure poverty. We went back again to present 25 areas of life that we had heard in these discussions across six countries, check if there were any important areas of life missing from the list, and ask poor women and men which of the 25 areas would be their top 15 priorities for measuring poverty.

Read the research report (PDF)

Visit the IDM website

Using their input we developed a new tool for measuring poverty: the Individual Deprivation Measure, or IDM.

The IDM measures:

  • The poverty of individuals, not just households
  • Differences in how women and men experience poverty – including within the household

The IDM recognises that escaping poverty requires more than just money. This is why it assesses 15 key areas of life for each individual.

See IDM at a glance (PDF)

Why is the IDM important?

It is the first poverty measure in the world based on the views of poor women and men.

We can see which factors make them poor, and measure the depth of their poverty.

By measuring the poverty of individuals instead of households, the IDM can show differences by gender, age, disability and ethnicity – including within households.

Any differences between adult women and men in each area of life can also be added up to generate a new gender equity measure that is relevant to poor people.

Not only will the IDM help governments and organisations target poverty more effectively, it will also help them measure success or failure, revealing what aspects of poverty are changing, by how much – and for whom.

Get in touch

Media

Please contact IWDA’s Communications team for any media queries.

Practitioners

Please contact IWDA Research, Policy & Advocacy Advisor Jo Crawford to learn how you can implement the IDM in your work.

This research project was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant LP0989385, Assessing development: designing better indices of poverty and gender equity. The research was led by the Australian National University in Canberra, and supported by additional funding and in-kind support from IWDA, Oxfam Great Britain (Southern Africa), Oxfam America, Philippine Health and Social Science Association and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Invaluable additional support was provided by the Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature, Oslo University. We acknowledge the significant contributions of local research teams in Angola, Fiji, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique and the Philippines and the many participants in the study.

Want to learn more about the Individual Deprivation Measure?

  • Richard

    Why is the IDM important?

    It is the first poverty measure in the world based on the views of poor women and men.

    We can see which factors make them poor, and measure the depth of their poverty.

    By measuring the poverty of individuals instead of households, the IDM can show differences by gender, age, disability and ethnicity – including within households.

    Any differences between adult women and men in each area of life can also be added up to generate a new gender equity measure that is relevant to poor people.”
    So this means that children – their poverty, their view – don’t matter??

    • Jo Crawford

      Hi Richard – so very sorry for the delay in responding. I have had,my head in other work and hadn’t seen your comment.
      Children – their poverty and how they think it should be defined and measured – matter very much. Which is essentially why we decided after considerable discussion as a research team that what we needed was to replicate this research with children, and be clear that we don’t think it is appropriate to consider using this measure with children until we have done so. Essentially we didn’t have the resources to do everything at once. Research with young children raises distinct ethical concerns in the structuring of methods, the training of fieldworkers and publicising research; and the best participatory methods for working with adults to construct a new measure of poverty are not the same methods we would need to use with young children. Developing the IDM so that it is relevant for children needs a dedicated research project. Chapter 7 of the research report explores the potential for future research involving children, and you can download it from this page,
      Extending the IDM to assess deprivation and inequity among children is a priority, and Sharon Bessell, Senior lecturer and Director of the Children’s Policy Centre at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU, is leading discussions with potential partners and collaborators. Sharon was a Principal Investigator on the IDM research. The plan is to conduct a similar three stage research process, starting with participatory research with girls and boys, moving on to participatory prioritising, and then testing the measure.
      Thanks Richard for raising this issue, and apologies again for the delay in responding.
      Jo Crawford

      • Richard

        Dear Jo,
        Sincere and many thanks for your kind and detailed response. Sharon has recently been in contact with regards to plans for future IDM initiatives with children. I wish you all the best for your future research efforts.
        Very best, Richard

      • Jo Crawford

        Sorry – Sharon now Associate Professor. When titles are hard won and well deserved one should get them right!

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