Multidimensional poverty: measurement and incidence on public policy: the case of argentina

Salvia, Agustín (2018). 'Multidimensional Poverty: measurement and incidence on public policy: The Case of Argentina' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


Keywords: multidimensional poverty, poverty measurement, public policy


Multidimensional Poverty Measurement is becoming increasingly mainstream. At the moment fourteen countries have introduced a Multidimensional Poverty Index as an official poverty measure, nine of them are Latin American countries (Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Panama). Countries from outside Latin America that have implemented an official MPI are Armenia, Bhutan, Mozambique, Nepal and Pakistan. Up to now, all of them use the Alkire and Foster (2011) overarching methodology but with idioscincratic and context specific definitions of dimensions, indicators and cutoffs. Several other countries are in the process of developing an official MPI.

Each country has gone through different processes of development of such indices. The MPI design in Mexico, pioneer in the region and in the world to adopt an official multidimensional poverty measure, followed the mandate of the Ley General de Desarrollo Social, sanctioned unanimously in 2004. The law created the institution to measure poverty (CONEVAL) and established that poverty measurement had to consider not only income but also six social rights (education, health services, quality and space in dwelling, basic services and food), plus social cohesion. El Salvador in turn, performed a remarkable two-years participatory process, with interviews to people experiencing poverty, from which dimensions, indicators and thresholds were delimited in such a way that were meaningful for the country. Other countries have followed other processes, with varying degrees of participation, but in all of them there has been at least some form of consultative process at the technical level, with representatives from different government sectors, and in many a follow up back to the grassroots to validate the design of the measure.

In Argentina, we have two longstanding traditions in poverty measurement. On the one hand, there is the measurement of unsatisfied basic needs (a direct method), which started with census data in mid 1980s, but which can also be done with data from the EPH survey. This form of measurement is by now a bit outdated in terms of the threholds used as well as in terms of the aggregation methodologies (headcount ratio using a union criterion). On the other hand, there is the income poverty measurement (an indirect method), which became regular in the late ‘90s for the Greater Buenos Aires area and progressively extended to other main urban areas as the EPH was extended. This poverty figure is highly visible and followed up by the press and general public. As it is well known, between 2007 and 2013, while other countries in the region were progressing on their forms of official poverty measurement, in Argentina, the official income poverty figures released by INDEC were unreliable mainly because of underestimation of inflation. Moreover, between 2013 and 2015 the income poverty estimates were discontinued, generating an statistical gap, which was filled in with independent estimations, such as the ones performed at the ODSA-UCA. In 2016, INDEC’s official income poverty estimates were restored. This brought back transparency and the possibility to monitor government performance. At the same time, the current government has committed to the “zero poverty” target. Thus, the current scene calls for a reflection upon poverty measurement in Argentina: to go beyond the very specific poverty rate number to the broader concept that supports that measure, or other we may want.

The time is ripe for holding a debate on what is understood to be poor in Argentina and how do we want to measure it. Many countries in our region have fruitfully given such debate a chance. Europe also has had it, at the time of defining the Europe 2020 target, and continues to revise it. The multidimensional approach, inspired and greately rooted in the capability approach, offers a flexible and comprehensive framework for analysis and debate. On this, as in other matters, it is of fundamental importance to build a consensus.

This round table brings together academics with conceptual and technical experience in poverty measurement as well as in advocacy and consultancy work for international organisations (Mercado, Paz, Salvia, Santos, Tuñón) with highly formed policy makers, currently working on government dependencies and involved in the design of multidimensional measures (Agosto and Barrera). The table aims to be a kick-off of a dabate that should be continued and expanded to the different stakeholders.

The round table will hold a lively and dynamic dialogue between panelists and coordinators addressing the following questions: Is the monetary approach to poverty measurement sufficient? Does the level of development of the country make a difference when determining the appropriate method? (It could be argued for example, that countries at higher stages of development the monetary approach might be a sufficient tool, as markets are more complete) In which ways can a multidimensional poverty measure enrich the measurement of poverty? Which dimensions are relevant? Which indicators? Should we favour access indicators or performance indicators (indicators of functionings)? Which are the advantages and disadvantages of each kind? How should we improve Argentina’s regular household survey (EPH) to enable better poverty measurement? Which methods among the multidimensional ones (dashboards of indicators, composite indices, multidimensional measures in the AF style, statistical techniques) can be more appropiate? For MPIs, which arguments do you find in favour of union criterion vs. other intermediate or intersection criterions for the identification of the poor? In which ways could a multidimensional poverty measure help to monitor and evaluate public policy? How can an official MPI could promote an interlinked and coordinated approach to public policies? Which processes should be set in the country to produce a poverty measure that enjoys public support and engagement? Consultancy technical roundtables? Participatory studies? Consensual approaches in Europe’s style?

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