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Conceptual basis and overview of the Missing Dimensions program and of the Agency and Empowerment survey module

Sabina Alkire


This paper introduces the panel by presenting first the conceptual basis and overview of the Missing Dimensions program. Then it presents the conceptual basis and overview of the Empowerment survey module. The need for ‘more and better data’ on poverty could not be greater; this paper first surveys the key improvements in internationally comparable data collection since the 1980s. It then identifies three ongoing ‘gaps’ : that of data related to core poverty areas such as the MDGs (which, for example, constrains the 2010 UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index); that of missing dimensions of poverty data; and that of just in time data which can be used to assess how poverty changes rapidly due to shocks and inform policy. The missing dimensions are described in detail. One particularly difficult aspect of poverty to measure in a comparable way is empowerment – what Sen calls human agency. This refers to people’s ability to authentically self-direct their own lives; to act on behalf of what they value; to guide their own destiny. Empirical studies to date suggest that empowerment – the increase in people’s agency – has a vital role in sustained poverty reduction, but further policy and analysis requires better data. The paper introduces the module to measure empowerment, its motivation, questions, and potential policy insights.

Publication Type(s)

Conference Paper

Ten Years of War Against Poverty Conference Papers

Conference: Ten Years of War Against Poverty


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