How can multidimensional child poverty measures make policy impact?

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Tomoo Okubo

How can multidimensional child poverty measures make policy impact?

Post by Tomoo Okubo » Tue Nov 06, 2018 2:42 am

Dear all,

UNICEF-Thailand, in partnership with Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), has been supporting the Royal Thai Government in developing multidimensional poverty measures, with particular focus on children. While we see value in developing the measurement itself for monitoring and SDG reporting, we've been thinking how to make the most use of the measure to make the biggest policy impact. We'd be very keen to hear from other countries/institutions on what they think would be the "success factors" and "next steps" after developing poverty measure to make it useful for policy purposes.

So far, from our experiences, our initial thoughts are as follows:

- the intended 'audience/users' of the measure should lead the process or at least participate in it. In the case of Thailand, the government has taken full ownership to lead the process, involving key line ministries and other relevant institutions in the country.

- if one is working on child poverty measure, the linkage with the national measure is also important so that they do not exist in isolation of each other. This will help avoid the risk of the child measure only being used for child-focused agencies, but also by main policy actors that can influence policy and budgeting.

- in the same regard, it could also be important to link the multidimensional measure with the monetary measure. They should complement each other in theory and the audience is most likely to be much more familiar with the monetary measure.

- dissemination is critical, particularly in a non-technical language so that the audience will understand the concept and validity.

- institutionalization will also be an important step. We've learned that in other countries, this is done through a presidential decree, Act or cabinet decisions. It would be really interesting to learn more about other countries' experiences.

We look forward to learning from other ideas and experiences.

Tomoo (on behalf of the UNICEF Thailand team)

Keetie Roelen.

Re: How can multidimensional child poverty measures make policy impact?

Post by Keetie Roelen. » Wed Nov 07, 2018 6:29 pm

Dear Tomoo

Great to see this development of a multidimensional measure, particularly with focus on children! A really important addition to the poverty measurement toolkit.

I would echo all your thoughts on key points for ensuring policy impact. Experiences with the multidimensional child poverty measure in Vietnam (led by UNICEF) about 10 years ago highlighted the importance of government ownership and continuous engagement, clear positioning of the measure in addition to other measures and intuitive and clearly understandable dissemination of findings. This meant that government were involved were fully involved in the process, from the choice of suitable indicators and their thresholds through to the dissemination of findings.

Another key aspect in terms of government ownership, and ensuring longer term usage, in Vietnam was the early involvement of the statistical office. This initially entailed conversations about the use of data sets but also set the scene for them taking for updating the findings (and measure) in subsequent years.

Looking forward to hearing about experiences from elsewhere!

Keetie Roelen
Institute of Development Studies

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Re: How can multidimensional child poverty measures make policy impact?

Post by KatChzhen » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:21 am

Dear Tomoo,

this sounds like a wonderful initiative. From the Office of Research - Innocenti side I can only add that it's crucial to know what goes into this measure and why.

What's your conceptual model of multidimensional child poverty? How does that inform the indicators/dimensions and the weights attached to them?

It's good to have a linkage to the national measure, but if children experience poverty differently from adults and we don't know how resources are shared within households, then, for example, calculating the percentage of children living in multidimensionally poor households is not going to be a child-centred statistic.

When you link your multidimensional child poverty measure to a monetary one, it would be best to avoid mixing monetary/non-monetary items in the same index. It would be good to be able to do an 'overlaps' analysis later on to see if multidimensionally poor children live in consumption-poor households or not. This is relevant to policy - for instance, some forms of deprivation might not be addressed by cash transfers directly because they are more due to supply-side/infrastructural constrains.


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Re: How can multidimensional child poverty measures make policy impact?

Post by Nisha_Arunatilake » Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:16 am

I agree with the previous comments. This is a great initiative. I was involved in doing the National Human Development Report for Sri Lanka in 2012, where we calculated the multidimensional poverty measures. One main finding in that report was that multidimensional poverty in Sri Lanka is largely explained by malnutrition. Almost a fifth of children in the country were malnourished. Our headcount poverty rates are less than ten. Which suggests that malnutrition is more widespread than poverty. Anecdotal evidence suggests, education related child activities may be contributing to malnutrition. It would be very interesting to get a deeper understanding of forces driving child poverty.

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Re: How can multidimensional child poverty measures make policy impact?

Post by dstewart » Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:48 pm

Dear Tomoo,
First congrats to you, the UNICEF team and partners and of course the Government of Thailand for the amazing progress!
To me your question is the $64,000 question (or is it $64 million? Anyway, it’s a lot). We spend a lot of time measuring child poverty (and discussing methodologies) but the policy impacts are often taken as given. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this with colleagues recently from the perspective of choice of measurement: if we don’t know the pathways of impact how do we know what measures will be most impactful?

In your case the choice of measure is set, but the thinking in terms of how to make an impact through MD child poverty measurement may still be helpful. I’m still trying to learn through conversations like this what impacts can be – but from what I’ve learnt so far there are clear pathways of impact, but they are relatively few and straightforward.

So I see the following forms of impact:
  • Advocacy: MDCP can raise the profile both politically and with members of the public on non-income dimensions of poverty and children specifically. In practice this could range from general advocacy to inclusion of measures in national plans and SDG reporting to maintain focus. I’d love to hear more about presidential decrees etc… Tomoo: anything you can share.
      Relationship building: this is very related to advocacy, but I think deserves separate consideration. Where the process is done right essentially a community of experts and influencers can be built. This can range from policy makers, to statisticians to parliamentary committees to civil society. When we move to change particular policies (say public finance for children) there is an expert and engaged network that can make a huge difference.
        Linking measures directly to policy: The example I think of here is CONEVAL (and perhaps it stands alone). Here a measure is DIRECTLY linked to policy, such as if part of the index gets worse a government response is compelled. Perhaps there are other examples? But the important separation I’m trying to make here is the direct link to policy and programme change, not of a broad government response, which is covered in advocacy above. (I’m not sure if I’m being clear in my own head on this, let alone on paper).
      Perhaps as important as what’s included above, is what is not. Conspicuously absent is analytical use of MDCPs to draw clear policy conclusions. Interesting ideas have come up in other conversations such as looking at overlaps and looking at drivers underlying MD child poverty. But I haven’t really seen clear examples of this being done and directly impactful on policy in practice. You could argue (and I guess I do!) that the proof is in the pudding of the range of MD child poverty studies which have drawn general policy conclusions rather than targeted implications of policy. I don’t think this is really a surprise and does NOT mean the reports are not of high quality: but when you consider how complex these compound measures are, how could one draw clear analytical conclusions from them?

      And just to stress I don’t want to underplay the very important and meaningful impacts of MD child poverty work outlined above – they are a HUGE deal. But being realistic about pathways of impacts I think is useful in answering the questions you pose.

      In terms of implications for work of these considerations I end very much with how you began, and agree very much with how you’ve framed things:
      • Ownership is key.
          Inserting measurement and analysis to key guiding documents – NDPs, SDG reporting that keeps the issue on the front burner.
            Being able to compare child multidimensional poverty to adult MD poverty if often very important. First it connects to the full poverty debates, and almost always draws the crucial conclusion that children are worse off.
              I fully agree on the connections with monetary poverty that you outlined, and Kat’s points on separation and analysis.
            One final thought: Taking the pragmatic approach outlined above can lead to a focus in some countries on disaggregating MPIs for children as a first step where they have strong support of government etc… To me this can make a lot of sense, but it can raise the issue of children living in MD poverty despite not being in MD poor households (and vice versa – but I think that’s less of a concern). Even if the analytical connection between MD measures and policy change is broad, this isn’t right – and moving towards complimentary measures to capture the fuller situation is important. Work, including in Thailand I believe, in ongoing on this now.

            Good luck with your work and keep us posted, it will be fun to follow progress here over time. And I’d love to hear from you Tomoo and other colleagues, so help refine our understanding of how multi-dimensional child poverty measures can be used for impact.


            Re: How can multidimensional child poverty measures make policy impact?

            Post by Dr-yapo » Fri Nov 09, 2018 5:30 pm

            In general, poverty is the inability to satisfy a vital need. The multidimensional measure of poverty suggests that poverty has to be measured in several ways, in other words, measuring poverty in various dimensions of human development. It is a question of answering the following fundamental questions:
            - Do all children come to school?
            - Do all children get treatment in case of illness?
            - Do all children have the minimum vital (eating, drinking, dressing, housing)? Etc.
            which amounts to calculating:
            - At the level of education, the rate of schooling of children, the success rate at school, the repetition rate, the dropout rate, etc. ;
            - At the level of health, the number of children who have access to health, the neonatal mortality rate, the infant and child mortality rate, the underweight, that is to say the anthropometric measurements. It also assess how many mothers give their child safe water from birth, ie after six months. Also see if the food that mothers give to children is high in protein, vitamins
            In total, this requires a careful study of the living conditions of children.
            However, it must be added that all children must be taken into account in such a study. These include street children (abandoned without shelter), children in prison, hospitalized children, orphans, child victims of war, etc.
            Once these indicators are calculated, we can assess the level of precarity in relation to each sector (education, health, food, housing, etc.). With a principal component analysis, we can calculate the quartiles or quintile of child poverty by also taking into account household-owned assets.
            For a given country, if the social indicators (school enrollment rate, infant and child mortality rates, anthropometric measures, etc.) are poor, then the improvement of the living conditions of poor children or the reduction of the rates of indicators must take into account the situation of children in the planning of social policies. It is therefore necessary to put in place policies to improve the situation of children at all levels. Hence the multidimensional measures of child poverty would motivate policy makers to take charge of children in programming and budgeting actions to improve the standard of living of children.
            In Côte d'Ivoire, it is the Ministry of Family, Women and Children that sets up development projects to meet the needs of children.

            Alberto Minujin

            Re: How can multidimensional child poverty measures make policy impact?

            Post by Alberto Minujin » Sat Nov 17, 2018 11:55 pm

            Congratulation for this discussion that is key if we want to have any impact with measuring and showing evidences on multidimensional child poverty.
            On point that I would like to add on David ownership point is the relevance to include territorial and community approach and what could be call 'social monitoring'. Work with communities, local authorities and municipalities could make a difference. In that sense would be good to develop more methodologies that can give information geographically desegregate. This is a challenge in the case of household surveys (MICS/DHS). However, it is possible to measure inequities and in some cases work on small area estimation's methods.


            Re: How can multidimensional child poverty measures make policy impact?

            Post by » Mon Nov 19, 2018 2:56 am

            The causes of multidimensional poverty amongst children can be quite complex. As such, once the main drivers of multi-dimentional poverty are understood, further studies needs to be conducted to understand the causes. The complex nature of the issues also make it necessary to look at policy interventions across several sectors to alleviate child-poverty.
            The case of malnutrition amongst children in Sri Lanka is a good case study ...
            Research done at the Institution of Policy Studies shows that malnourishment is more prevalent amongst school going children. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is due to lack of knowledge on nutrition and the pressures involved in going to school and attending after-school activities. Many children in the multidimensional-poor areas have very poor eating habits which are associated with schooling and busy life patterns of parents. This is not always due to lack of money for proper food, but the lack of time to prepare and consume proper food. This is also due to the inequalities in the quality of schools in the country. Many children travel far to attend good quality schools. They start their day early and come home late in the afternoon. Many of those children do not eat breakfast. Others rely on cheap fast food keep away hunger. Children also attend private tuition classes after school to supplement their education. This also takes the time they have to eat proper meals and exercise, resulting in poor health.


            Re: How can multidimensional child poverty measures make policy impact?

            Post by tokubo » Tue Dec 04, 2018 6:45 am

            Dear everyone,

            Thank you SO MUCH for all the responses. I read all the responses very carefully. They are not just extremely insightful, but also offers great encouragement and a sense of a community of practitioners and academia working on child poverty around the world - which is invaluable.

            It was great to see repeated emphasis on the ownership - including the NSOs, community or local administration in some cases - which I fully agree. We often talk about the technical aspect of the measure (which is more concrete and tangible) than the ownership aspect of the process (which can sometimes be very vague and country-dependent). If the policy impact is intended, the importance of ownership should not be undermined.

            I also resonated on the point of "clear positioning" of the measures as well as the importance of having clear conceptual understanding of what goes into the poverty measure and why. At the end of the day, the national authorities would be asked to explain clearly, why different measures? what is it trying to capture? how were the indicators selected? why different measure for children?. Often times, my experience is that it's hard to find answers to these fundamental questions at the beginning of the journey - rather, those involved start to find clearer answers to them as we get involved, start digging into data, looking at the results etc.

            I am keen to learn further from others, but for now, just wanted to say a big thank you and also to share my quick reflections.



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