The world's poorest people are becoming significantly better off, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. Researchers estimate that countries with the most poor, including Nepal, Rwanda and Bangladesh, could see acute poverty erased within 20 years if development continues at current rates.
The Oxford study uses a new, multidimensional measure of poverty. "Poverty is often defined by one-dimensional measures, such as income. But no one indicator alone can capture the multiple aspects that constitute poverty," according to the Initiative's website.
"Multidimensional poverty is made up of several factors that constitute poor people’s experience of deprivation — such as poor health, lack of education, inadequate living standard, lack of income, disempowerment, poor quality of work and threat from violence."
This multidimensional measure, which was developed in 2010 by Oxford professors Dr. Sabina Alkire and Dr. Maria Emma Santos, gives a fuller picture on poverty. "As poor people worldwide have said, poverty is more than money — it is ill health, it is food insecurity, it is not having work, or experiencing violence and humiliation, or not having health care, electricity or good housing," Alkire said in an interview with The Guardian.
The Oxford study comes on the heels of a United Nations report released in March stating that poverty reduction drives in the developing world are exceeding all expectations.
"The world is witnessing an epochal 'global rebalancing' with higher growth in at least 40 poor countries helping lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and into a new 'global middle class,'" the report said. "Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast."
The U.N. report, which also used a multidimensional measure of poverty, said the "rebalancing" is the result of various international and national development projects, such as investing in schools, clinics, housing, infrastructure and access to water.
The U.N. also pointed to trade as a key factor improving conditions in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. The report noted that improvements in these areas would not have been accounted for using income as the only measure of well-being.