impoverished child Thomas Trutschel | Getty Images

Poverty Beyond the Numbers

For decades, poverty has been defined with a number, which the World Bank currently puts at a personal income of less than $1.90 per day. But measuring more than just income is essential for understanding the needs of poor people and delivering optimal assistance.

ASUNCIÓN – What is poverty? For decades, we have defined it with a number, which the World Bank currently puts at a personal income of less than $1.90 per day. But a single number fails to capture the complexity of poverty. Measuring more than just income is essential to understanding the needs of poor people and delivering optimal assistance.

As the World Bank convenes its Spring Meetings in Washington, DC next week, we have an opportunity to set benchmarks that include social and environmental dimensions of poverty. The Bank has acknowledged that more than income should be considered, and recently established a Commission on Global Poverty to recommend additional metrics.

Although many public and private groups already collect data on a range of issues affecting poor communities such as nutrition, maternal health, or access to education, such information remains largely untapped and is rarely shared across institutions. But there are some beacons of light, including the Social Progress Index, which provides a framework for tracking multiple symptoms of poverty across countries and complements traditional income-based measures.

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