Equity for Children: At the Forefront of Measuring Child Poverty

Leading researchers in poverty and deprivation measurement, as well as anti-poverty policies, gathered on September 20th, 2023, at The New School University for a conference entitled ‘Improving Child and Family Poverty Measurement.’ The event was co-organized by Equity for Children in partnership with UNICEF and the Bristol Poverty Institute at the University of Bristol, UK. Each is collaborating on a research program to improve the international measurement of child and family poverty.

Background

In 2015, governments worldwide committed to the lofty goal of eradicating
poverty during the 21st century. Presently, there is a lack of consistent and
comprehensive poverty measure across countries, with distinct metrics for low,
middle, and high-income nations. To effectively combat poverty, policymakers
need high-quality information about the extent and nature of poverty as well as
the political will and adequate resources. The information is essential in order to
develop effective and efficient anti-poverty policies, which rely on accurate
measurement to help focus resources where they are most needed and to
monitor progress.


Measuring child poverty is crucial for tracking progress toward Sustainable
Development Goal #1 (SDG1): “By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion
of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions
according to national definitions.”


Pioneering Knowledge Generation


Alberto Minujin, professor of International Affairs at The New School University
and Executive Director of Equity for Children, delivered the September 20
gathering’s opening remarks. He commented on obtaining comprehensive
multidimensional child poverty measures that extend beyond monetary poverty,
as well as the importance of considering non-material deprivations that affect
the well-being of children and their families. These aspects, along with child
participation, are central themes for Equity for Children.

Joanna Mack, an award-winning journalist and filmmaker, currently serving as
a Visiting Research Fellow at the Bristol Poverty Institute, is renowned for her
pioneering work in measuring poverty based on public perceptions of
necessities. She led the UK research project on poverty and social exclusion
that was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council at the Open
University. In her presentation entitled “What are Socially Perceived Necessities
and why are they important?”, Mack stressed socially-perceived necessities as
a method for establishing a poverty threshold. These necessities go beyond
income and reflect the experiences of impoverished individuals and their
communities, with appropriate age-appropriate standards. She addressed the
dimensions covered by socially-perceived necessities, their enforcement, and
consensus among different groups. She highlighted ways to utilize this
approach globally through surveys, emphasizing the relative and contemporary
nature of perceived necessities and the importance of societal participation.

Héctor Nájera, a PhD and Research Fellow at the Program for Development
Studies (PUED) at UNAM, played a pivotal role in creating the EU’s official and
important multidimensional poverty measure. His presentation, “Consensual
deprivation and multidimensional poverty measurement in Latin America,”
reviewed the development of multidimensional poverty measures in Latin
America since the 1980s. He discussed the extensive use of the Basic Need
Approach (BNA) throughout Latin America and the evolution of the conceptual
and methodological framework debate. Nájera highlighted the recent region
wide rise in the use of the consensual approach and provided examples from
Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.

Mary Zhang, PhD and Lecturer in Quantitative Research Methods at the
University of Oxford, specializes in developing measures of multidimensional
poverty in low- and middle-income countries. Her presentation, “Consensus
about Necessities in African countries,” proposed establishing a consensus on
minimum living standards across West and Central African countries. She
suggested that the Consensual Approach should be used to monitor SDG target
1.2, which would require better data on multidimensional poverty for children
and adults. The Consensual Approach relies on the assumption that there is
societal agreement about what is considered necessary for a minimum standard
of living. The presentation emphasized the Core Welfare Indicator
Questionnaire and presented data from various countries that support the
existence of a consensus across countries.

Björn Halleröd, a Sociology professor at the University of Gothenburg with
over 25 years of expertise on the themes of poverty, well-being, and living
conditions research, recently served as Secretary General of Research
Infrastructure at the Swedish Research Council. In his provocative presentation
“The Devil’s Advocate – the limitations of consensual poverty measurement,”
Halleröd explored the concept of consensual poverty measurement and its
associated limitations. He delved into the idea of measuring poverty based on
both objective and subjective relative deprivation, emphasizing the importance
of aligning poverty measurement with customary living conditions while
accommodating shifts in consumption patterns over time. He reviewed the
evolving definition of societal necessities, such as the significance of internet
access today. Ultimately, the presentation underscored the challenge of
determining how “poor” an individual must be to be considered impoverished,
because of the complex empirical and normative considerations that are raised.

David Gordon, Professor of Social Justice and Director of the Townsend
Centre for International Poverty Research and the Bristol Poverty Institute at the
University of Bristol, is a prolific author and expert in poverty, inequality, social
exclusion, and social policy. In recognition of his work, he was elected as a
Fellow of the British Academy in 2018. Professor Gordon’s presentation,
“Comparable Global Multidimensional Poverty Measurement,” explored the
complexities and possibilities of measuring poverty on a global scale,
considering both its theoretical and practical implications. He discussed the
concept of comparable global multidimensional poverty measurement and the
ways in which the SDGs relate to poverty eradication and poverty’s relative,
dynamic, and multidimensional nature. He explored the historical context of
poverty measurement with a focus on the origins of the “poverty line” and its
evolution. The presentation emphasized the need for a universal theory and
definition of poverty that crosses all societies while adapting to local contexts.
He stressed the importance of producing comparable poverty estimates across
differing indicators and age groups, and to achieving valid, accurate, and
reliable poverty measurements.


Enrique Delamonica serves as the Statistics and Monitoring Senior Advisor for
Child Poverty and Gender Equality at UNICEF-HQ. He is an accomplished
author and educator with expertise in economic development, children’s rights,
social protection, socioeconomic disparities, and the impact of macroeconomic
trends on children. He has taught at institutions such as Columbia University
and The New School University. Mr. Delamonica advanced a global strategy to
measure child and family poverty internationally after the 2030 agenda based
on the consensus approach. He asserted that it is a holistic measure that takes
into account quality of life factors, such as discrimination and social exclusion,
that are not currently accounted for. He criticized the lack of depth and accuracy
of the World Bank’s $1 a-day measure of poverty and hoped that the Multiple
Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) would include consensus approach questions
that offer a better understanding of how poverty is experienced, particularly by
children.

View the full discussion below:

Equity for Children strives to develop processes that improve child well-
being through the creation and dissemination of original research; seminars and
in-person meetings to discuss cutting edge issues and concepts and to take
action that reduces inequality; and through advocacy with decision-makers and
policymakers. To learn more about Equity for Children’s mission, click here


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