Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you, advises a helpful quote of Andy Warhol addressed to those worried about news stories. “Just measure it in inches,” he adds.
By that handy measure, ‘poverty’ as a theme has been richly written about. But, do we measure poverty right when drawing a monetary line and then counting all those below it, as accountants are wont to do? Alas, income is just one of the many dimensions of poverty, says Louis-Marie Asselin in ‘Analysis of Multidimensional Poverty: Theory and case studies’ (www.idrc.ca).
Poverty consists in any form of inequity, which is a source of social exclusion, in the distribution of the living conditions essential to human dignity, he says. “These living conditions correspond to the capabilities of individuals, households, and communities to meet their basic needs in the following dimensions: income, education, health, food/ nutrition, safe water/ sanitation, labour/ employment, housing (living environment), access to productive assets, access to markets, and community participation/ social peace.”
While the unidimensional income measurement of poverty has a great technical advantage of allowing for a complete ordering of households according to income level, and then targeting policies and programmes for welfare mapping, it is still necessary to look at poverty at an individual level, the author urges.
In the multidimensional case, the content of the vector of indicators chosen to measure poverty is crucial to determine the poverty concept, and fixing a poverty line or indicator-specific poverty lines is not a first requirement to grasp the concept of poverty, he explains.