New Poverty Index Finds More Poor People In Indian States Than In Poorest African Countries

There is a higher number of poor people in eight Indian states than in 26 of the poorest African countries, according to the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which was developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative with support from the U.N., the BBC reports (7/13).

To calculate poverty, the index “takes into account issues such as health and education and whether or not people have access to clean water and electricity,” VOA News writes. It will be used for the upcoming U.N. Development Program’s Human Development Report, “replacing the Human Poverty Index,” according to VOA News. “Researchers analyzed data from 104 countries with a combined population of 5.2 billion – just under 80 percent of the world’s total population,” the news service writes.

“One striking feature is that most of the poor people live in South Asia – 51 percent of the 1.7 billion people that we have identified as poor are resident in that continent,” said Sabina Alkire, director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and co-creator of the index. “When we compare the 26 poorest countries of Africa with states in India that have the same intensity of deprivation, we find there are more poor people with this intensity of deprivation in India than in sub-Saharan Africa,” she noted.

According to Alkire, the index offers a different and sometimes unexpected measure of poverty than other studies that only look at income. For example, the MPI finds that 1.7 billion people in the countries it covers live in poverty, which is “higher than the 1.3 billion people who live on $1.25 a day or less,” the news service reports. Alkire also points out that the index shows levels of poverty among different ethnic groups within a country (Hennessy, 7/14). BBC Radio 4 interviewed Alkire about the MPI (7/14).

Washington Post Examines India’s Cash-For-Hospital Births Program

In an effort to reduce its high maternal mortality rate, the Indian government offers rural women cash payments of $30, or “several weeks” of farming wages, “to give birth in the cleaner, safer environment of a hospital” rather than at home, the Washington Post reports in a story examining the program.

“India’s high maternal mortality rate, while reduced by half in the past 20 years, remains a national embarrassment,” the newspaper writes. “The rate in some Indian states … is twice the national average, and in some areas, government statistics show that a woman dies in childbirth every hour. Such dismal statistics, in a nation striving to be known more for technological innovation than for mothers dying preventable deaths on dirt floors, have spurred Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to promote the cash giveaway to mothers who deliver in hospitals,” according to the Washington Post, which notes that the program is “one aspect of a gargantuan effort to overhaul India’s drastically uneven and overburdened health system and bring basic services to the most vulnerable of India’s 1.2 billion people.”

Indian health workers and people who have researched the Indian health system say the payment program seems to be working. “In two of the poorest states in India – Bihar and Uttar Pradesh – the number of women giving birth in medical facilities soared from less than 20 percent in 2005 to nearly 50 percent in 2008, according to the most recent data available. Doctors here attribute that to the payment program,” the newspaper notes. Though the payments are effective, “the larger hurdle is often a deep lack of education in villages about how basic medical care can make a life-or-death difference in childbirth,” the Washington Post writes before outlining some of the pitfalls of the program, which include adding additional burden to the “overloaded health system.”

The article also notes the India-related findings from a recent Lancet study on maternal health (Wax, 7/15). 

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

KFF Headquarters: 185 Berry St., Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94107 | Phone 650-854-9400
Washington Offices and Barbara Jordan Conference Center: 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 | Phone 202-347-5270 | Email Alerts: | |

The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.