The dimensions of wellbeing in early childhood: analysis and targeting of social policies

Colacce, Maira; Tenenbaum, Victoria (2018). 'The dimensions of wellbeing in early childhood: analysis and targeting of social policies' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


In this paper we study several dimensions of wellbeing in early childhood for Uruguay. Our main objective is to identify the dimensions with significant levels of deprivation and overlap in order to inform and orient the design of social policies targeted to those in greater need.

We build a multidimensional poverty index upon a recent survey conducted in Uruguay (Encuesta Nacional de Destrrollo Infantil y Salud [Nacional child development and health survey]), that enquires on several dimensions of children under four years old in 2013. Based on this index, we evaluate the targeting of the social policies directed to this age-group. We focus our analysis on ‘Uruguay Crece Contigo’ [Uruguay Grows with You], an initiative that offers health and social mentoring for pregnant woman and children under 4 years old in social and health risk.

Several multidimensional indices have been constructed for Uruguay, but only a few include dimensions that are relevant for children (Nathan and Zerpa 2011; Castillo and Colombo 2014; Failache et al. 2016). All of these were elaborated based on special surveys focused on children, whereas the multidimensional indices calculated on regular or permanent surveys include dimensions that inform about the characteristics of the households the children live in (CEPAL-UNICEF, 2010; Alves y Zerpa, 2011; CEPAL y UNICEF, 2016). Until now, no other multidimensional index has been constructed using the ENDIS.

Using the methodology proposed by Alkire and Foster (2007, 2011), we propose a multidimensional poverty index for early childhood taking advantage of the unique information available in the ENDIS specifically directed to young children. We consider one traditional dimension, Housing, and several dimensions that had never been considered in this kind of indices in Uruguay and are central to child development: characteristics of the pregnancy, health controls, nutrition, direct measures of development, and rearing practices and beliefs. We analyze in detail each dimension and their overlap with each other, as well as the results of the index’s components and the contributions of each dimension. We also compare the results with the traditional monetary poverty index, describing the characteristic of each of the groups conformed by the simultaneous consideration of both indices. Finally, we study multidimensional poverty dynamics as two waves of the survey are now available (2013 and 2015). Although the period is relatively short, we highlight the salient characteristics of those who had successful evolutions, as well as those which show persistent poverty.

One of the main disadvantages of this index is that it requires of massive and costly information in order to be constructed. For instance, psychomotricity tests, conducted by professional staff, are applied to the children included in the survey. In order to offer a simpler alternative that can be used to target children to targeted social programs, we propose an index that could be constructed with the available administrative data. We build an index in ENDIS using only those indicators that are also available in administrative data (Pregnancy data for example) and evaluate the similarity with the complete index. Our principal hypothesis is that both indices will have major overlap, and that the differences can be spotted in order to broaden the targeting with specific instruments. This means that the simpler index could be used to improve the focalization procedure of the program at low cost. Further research is needed in order to evaluate the proposed index on the administrative data and compare its results on the current beneficiaries. 

scroll to top