Original Research

Macro-level drivers of multidimensional poverty in sub-Saharan Africa: Explaining change in the Human Poverty Index

Heath Prince
African Evaluation Journal | Vol 2, No 1 | a73 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aej.v2i1.73 | © 2014 Heath Prince | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 April 2014 | Published: 18 December 2014

About the author(s)

Heath Prince, University of Texas, Austin, United States


Poverty is increasingly recognised as a multidimensional phenomenon in the development literature, encompassing not only income, but also a range of factors related to broadening an individual’s freedoms to live a life of their own choosing. Poverty so understood suggests that alternative approaches to poverty measurement reflecting this multidimensionality may point towards alternative policies for poverty alleviation. The imperative to reinforce pro-poor policy development in sub-Saharan Africa with evaluation findings that reflect improvements in well-being, rather than solely improvements in national economies, has become self-evident as, despite decades of market-led development policies, much of the subcontinent remains mired in deprivation. As recognised by the 2014 African Evaluation Association’s biannual conference, fresh thinking and new evaluation metrics are required in order to create policies that more effectively increase well-being. This article explores the factors that may account for changes in one metric of multidimensional poverty in developing countries, the United Nation Development Program’s Human Poverty Index (HPI), and will be primarily concerned with measuring the effects on the HPI of policies and activities that relate to, or are explicitly meant to encourage, economic growth, increased literacy and improved health. The study focuses on the outcomes of a panel data set, created for the purpose of this study, of HPI scores for a set of 47 sub-Saharan countries, between 1990 and 2010, and a range of indicators that the development literature and theory suggest should have an effect on income poverty, asking, what is the relationship between these indicators and multidimensional poverty? A parallel set of models has been developed to measure the response of household consumption expenditure to changes in economic growth and human capabilities indicators. All models are estimated using fixed effects estimators and cluster robust standard errors in Stata 12. Consistent with the development literature, household expenditure appears to be significantly and positively related to changes in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. However, when the HPI is regressed on GDP per capita, no statistically significant relationshipis observed, even when controlling for a range of other indicators, calling into question the relationship between economic growth and well-being in much of sub-Saharan Africa. This finding suggests that development policies that focus primarily on economic growth as a means to addressing multidimensional deprivation may be misplaced.




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Crossref Citations

1. Feminization of multidimensional urban poverty in sub‐Saharan Africa: Evidence from selected countries
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African Development Review  vol: 32  issue: 4  first page: 632  year: 2020  
doi: 10.1111/1467-8268.12466