Bristol poverty measurement methods go global

17 December 2014

Researchers at the universities of Bristol and Cardiff have shown how the process of defining and measuring poverty in low-income countries can be made more democratic.

In a paper published this month in the journal Social Indicators Research, the team’s study (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council) demonstrates how methods developed to assess poverty in high-income countries can also be used successfully in low-income countries, where poverty is more deeply entrenched.

The study’s methodology applies the Consensual Approach, a method developed by academics at Bristol as part of the Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK study, to micro-data from a household survey in Benin in West Africa.

The Consensual Approach generates ‘heat maps’ to chart the levels of agreement about what items and social activities people in a community believe to be essential for an adequate standard of living. The Benin data clearly showed such a consensus about which factors should be considered essential, and thus can form the basis of a democratic definition and measure of poverty.

Dr Shailen Nandy, Research Fellow in the Centre for Study of Poverty and Social Justice, said: ‘Our findings show that methods developed in Bristol can be applied effectively to assess poverty anywhere in the world. We plan to develop a short module of questions which can be added to existing household surveys to produce valid, reliable and comparable indicators of poverty for many more countries’.

Nandy S, Pomati M. Applying the Consensual Method of Estimating Poverty in a Low Income African Setting. Social Indicators Research 2014: 1-34. DOI: 10.1007/s11205-014-0819-z (Open Access paper)