Multidimensional poverty in Lao PDR

poverty methods of measurement
New methods of measurement stress that there is much more to poverty than what is captured by economic indicators. Photo: Meunierd/

The gap between monetary and multidimensional measurement of poverty

  • New poverty measure shows that income does not tell full story
  • Income is a poor proxy for people’s overall well-being
  • Despite Laos’ high economic growth, between-group disparities have persisted or even risen
  • Improved poverty measures enable better allocation of resources
Poverty is more than just dollars and cents. Photo: Michael Epprecht, CDE


This PhD project explores the contested, but under-researched relationship between development, economic growth, and disparities. Recent development strategies have promoted economic growth and market integration as ways of curing poverty, and equated rising incomes with empowerment. The remarkable reduction of poverty in Laos appears to support such conclusions. But poverty is more than just dollars and cents.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index enables researchers to assess diverse indicators of poverty at the household level. Photo: S. Jaquet, CDE


We have developed a multidimensional poverty measure for Lao PDR based on Alkire and Foster’s methodology. It analyses how the benefits of economic growth are distributed across different geographic regions and population segments. Rather than focusing solely on income, we measure the sumultaneous deprivations people face in terms of health, education, and living standards. As Lao PDR exhibits both high economic growth rates and sustained or rising inequalities, achieving a better understanding of how risks are distributed is crucial for more equitable development.

Many households identified as multidimensionally poor are not considered income poor, and vice versa. Photo: Susanne Wymann, CDE


The new multidimensional poverty measure points to higher levels of poverty in Lao PDR. Moreover, the intensity of poverty is unequally distributed between population groups. Ethnic minorities experience more kinds of deprivation. Many households identified as multidimensionally poor are not considered income poor, and vice versa. In this way, multidimensional poverty measures can enable more efficient allocation of scarce resources.

Institutional setting

Fully funded by CDE


Project duration

3 yrs. (until January 2016)