A multidimensional Approach to Measure Poverty in Rural Bangladesh

Abbas Bhuiya, Shehrin Shaila Mahmood, A.K.M. Masud Rana, Tania Wahed, Syed Masud Ahmed, A. Mushtaque R. Chowdhury


Poverty is increasingly being understood as a multidimensional phenomenon. Other than income-consumption, which has been extensively studied in the past, health, education, shelter, and social involvement are among the most important dimensions of poverty. The present study attempts to develop a simple tool to measure poverty in its multidimensionality where it views poverty as an inadequate fulfillment of basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, health, education, and social involvement. The scale score ranges between 72 and 24 and is constructed in such a way that the score increases with increasing level of poverty. Using various techniques, the study evaluates the poverty-measurement tool and provides evidence for its reliability and validity by administering it in various areas of rural Bangladesh. The reliability coefficients, such as test-retest coefficient (0.85) and Cronbach’s alpha (0.80) of the tool, were satisfactorily high. Based on the socioeconomic status defined by the participatory rural appraisal (PRA) exercise, the level of poverty identified by the scale was 33% in Chakaria, 26% in Matlab, and 32% in other rural areas of the country. The validity of these results was tested against some traditional methods of identifying the poor, and the associa­tion of the scores with that of the traditional indicators, such as ownership of land and occupa­tion, asset index (r=0.72), and the wealth ranking obtained from the PRA exercise, was consistent. A statistically significant inverse relationship of the poverty scores with the socioeconomic status was observed in all cases. The scale also allowed the absolute level of poverty to be measured, and in the present study, the highest percentage of absolute poor was found in terms of health (44.2% in Chakaria, 36.4% in Matlab, and 39.1% in other rural areas), followed by social exclusion (35.7% in Chakaria, 28.5% in Matlab, and 22.3% in other rural areas), clothing (6.2% in Chakaria, 8.3% in Matlab, and 20% in other rural areas), education (14.7% in Chakaria, 8% in Matlab, and 16.8% in other rural areas), food (7.8% in Chakaria, 2.9% in Matlab and 3% in other rural areas), and shelter (0.8% in Chakaria, 1.4% in Matlab, and 3.7% in other rural areas). This instrument will also prove itself invaluable in assessing the individual effects of poverty-alleviation programmes or policies on all these different dimensions.

Key words: Asset index; Clothing; Education; Food; Health; Participatory rural appraisal; Poverty; Poverty measurement; Reliability; Shelter; Social exclusion; Validity; Chakaria; Matlab; Bangladesh

Full Text: PDF