According to a new study more people live in poverty in eight Indian states than in 26 of sub-Saharan Africa's poorest countries. The creators of the new study said the level of poverty in South Asia compared to Africa was a surprising discovery.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index takes into account issues such as health and education and whether or not people have access to clean water and electricity.
Sabina Alkire is director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and she co-created the new index.
"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," says Alkire. "And it is not only the number, but also the intensity."
She says about one-quarter of the world's poor live in Africa, according to the MPI.
"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. And that is quite striking," Alkire adds.
Alkire says the new Index paints a different and sometimes surprising picture of poverty than studies that look at income alone.
For example, in Ethiopia 90 percent of people are 'MPI poor' compared to the 39 percent who are classified as living in 'extreme poverty'. And 1.7-billion people living in the countries covered by the Index live in poverty according to the MPI – that is higher than the 1.3-billion people who live on $1.25 a day or less.
Alkire says a benefit of the new index is that it shows how poverty affects people living in different regions of a country.
"So we looked at Kenya, where Nairobi has the poverty of the Dominican Republic – not too much poverty – whereas the northeastern rural area of Kenya is worse than our poorest country, Niger, with more than 90 percent of people poor," Alkire said.
She says it also shows the range of poverty amongst different ethnic groups – she says in some countries the variety is tremendous.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index was developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative with support from the United Nations. It will be featured in the upcoming UNDP Human Development Report, replacing the Human Poverty Index.
Researchers analyzed data from 104 countries with a combined population of 5.2 billion – just under 80 percent of the world's total population.