The Chilean Experience: Multidimensional poverty measurement and indicators of local environment and social networks

4 June, 2018

by Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile

Sebastián Rodríguez | Presidencia de la República 2014-2018

In the last decade, several countries in Latin America and across the world have begun a process of modernizing the indicators and instruments used for poverty measurement, complementing traditional income based measurement with multidimensional poverty measures.

Chile has joined this process, fulfilling the government’s campaign promises. In January 2015, two new and substantive innovations in official national poverty measurement were introduced: a revision and update of the income poverty measure (which had not been modified in 25 years) and the introduction of a new multidimensional poverty measure based on the methodology proposed by Alkire and Foster.

These relevant changes were the product of an extensive consultation process, consensus-building, and technical validation that included academics, representatives of civil society organizations, international organizations, and the public sector.

During this process, the government of Chile had the valuable support of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). Through a technical assistance program initiated in 2014, the needed capacities and skills were transferred to the national technical teams who worked on the development, evaluation, and validation of the multidimensional poverty measure. In addition to this work, OPHI’s input and, in particular, the visit and activities carried out in the country by Professors Sabina Alkire and James Foster and their team have been key to stimulating political and academic debate around poverty in Chile.

Continuing this effort, the government, through the Ministry of Social Development, committed itself to further refining the multidimensional poverty measure. The main challenge identified was how to incorporate deprivations related to the local environment and the social networks that households rely on. A lack of access to support networks and poor environmental conditions are forms of social exclusion that reinforce deprivations experienced in other dimensions, such as education, health, housing, employment, and social security.

OPHI’s input and, in particular, the visit and activities carried out in the country by Professors Sabina Alkire and James Foster and their team have been key to stimulating political and academic debate around poverty in Chile.

In August of 2016, with Professor James Foster in attendance, we launched the extended multidimensional poverty measure, which includes five dimensions (education, health, employment and social security, housing and local environment, and networks and social cohesion) and a total of 15 indicators, which were measured for the first time with data from the Casen 2015 Survey (1).

This expanded measure not only strengthens the assessment of poverty in Chile, it also signals the need to evaluate the results of public policies in terms of a holistic vision of development and the wellbeing of people. It also becomes a valuable tool for identifying population groups and regions that, regardless of their income, remain excluded from accessing the opportunities and wellbeing enjoyed by the rest of the country.

The design of the National Urban Development Policy, which complements the efforts of different ministries and public services through the Interministerial City, Housing and Territory Commission (COMICIVYT for its acronym in Spanish), is an example of the realization of this vision. This broader understanding of development can also be observed in the inclusion of children and young people who are not attending school into this new multidimensional poverty analysis. This helps to generate comprehensive policy responses aimed at promoting school attendance, preventing dropouts, and offering support for those not in school to reintegrate into formal education.

Including these deprivations not only implies broadening the way we look at the phenomenon of poverty, but also updating its assessment and measurement in line with the expectations and demands of Chile’s citizens and with the commitments made by Chile to the international community. This is particularly critical for the implementation of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, whose primary objective is ‘to end poverty in all its forms around the world’.

Having a multidimensional poverty measure, securing its continuity over time, and promoting its use as a tool for assessment and public policy design is fundamental for countries such as Chile, where we have opted for sustainable growth based on the principles of justice and equity.



(1): The first results of this expanded multidimensional poverty measure are available on the website of the Social Observatory of the Ministry of Social Development.

Foto: Sebastián Rodríguez. Presidencia de la República 2014-2018


Published in Dimensions Special Issue – June 2018


Chile Michelle Bachelet Multidimensional Poverty National MPI