Measures of Poverty

As the international community prepares new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the question of how we measure poverty is more important than ever before.

One of the conclusions of our participatory research on the Millennium Development Goals was that current measures of extreme poverty are inadequate. Some global statistics are very uncertain; also the $1.25-a-day indicator of extreme poverty and the $2-a-day indicator of poverty are deeply flawed.

Extreme poverty is a multidimensional phenomenon. ATD Fourth World works on the question of measuring poverty on three fronts:

  1. With people living in poverty, to include them as partners in building knowledge on development;
  2. With researchers and international organizations, to find the best ways to measure poverty;
  3. With governments and international organizations, to ensure that multidimensional measures of poverty are included in international sustainable development goals.


On the research front, we are currently setting up a multi-year participatory research project, in collaboration with Oxford University, that will connect people who have a direct experience of poverty with other experts. A key aim of this research is to complement “top down” definitions of poverty with experiential ones, and to demonstrate that it is possible to develop research methodologies that enable the fulfillment of human rights obligations to engage people in poverty in global policy making.