Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2021: Unmasking disparities by ethnicity, caste and gender


This report was released on October 7, 2021, by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), an economic research and policy centre at University of Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the latest edition of the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index report, released annually by OPHI since 2010. In the report, ‘multidimensional poverty’ includes income and other indicators such as poor health, lack of education and poor living standards.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) calculates and presents data on multidimensional poverty among 109 developing nations (26 low-income countries, 80 middle-income countries and three high-income countries) covering 5.9 billion people. It bases its study on 10 indicators across three dimensions of poverty: health, education, and standard of living. This report, for the first time, also classifies data by ethnicity or race (in 40 countries), caste (in India) and gender of the head of the household (in 108 countries).

The report is divided into two parts, each of them containing multiple sections. The first part ‘Building forward with equity: Where are we now?’ consists of three sections: The 2021 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (Section 1); How did poverty change during the two decades before the COVID-19 pandemic? (Section 2); and COVID-19 and multidimensional poverty around the world (Section 3). The second part ‘Multidimensional poverty, ethnicity, caste and gender: Revealing disparities’ contains two sections: Multidimensional poverty and ethnicity, race and caste (Section 1); and Multidimensional poverty through a gendered and intrahousehold lens (Section 2).


  1. The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is measured against three broad dimensions of poverty, which are further divided into 10 indicators. Nutrition and child mortality are measured under the dimension of health. The dimension of education covers years of schooling and school attendance. Standard of living consists of indicators like cooking fuel, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, housing and assets. A person is identified as ‘multidimensionally poor’ if they are deprived in one-third or more of the 10 listed indicators.

  2. The report covers 5.9 billion people across 109 countries. Of these, it states that 1.3 billion people (21.7 per cent) are multidimensionally poor. About 644 million of these (around 50 per cent) are children, and 105 million (8.2 per cent) are aged 60 years or above.

  3. Of the 1.3 billion people experiencing multidimensional poverty, more than 67 per cent live in middle-income countries. As high as 85 per cent of the 1.3 billion are located in Sub-Saharan Africa (556 million) or South Asia (532 million). Additionally, 1.1 billion (84 per cent) people reside in rural areas whereas 209 million (16 per cent) people live in urban areas.

  4. Roughly five out of every six multidimensionally poor people in India belong to a Scheduled Tribe or a Scheduled Caste, the report notes. Of the estimated 129 million people belonging to Scheduled Tribes in India, about 65 million (50.6 per cent) live in multidimensional poverty.

  5. The report notes a high incidence of multidimensional poverty among Scheduled Castes in India. Out of the estimated 283 million people in India who belong to Scheduled Castes, around 94 million (33.3 per cent) are multidimensionally poor.

  6. Roughly 160 million (27.2 per cent) of the estimated 588 million people belonging to Other Backward Classes also live in multidimensional poverty, the report notes.

  7. The report considers data from 41 countries with a cumulative population of 2.4 billion to measure incidence of multidimensional poverty according to ethnicity, race and caste. It notes that multidimensional poverty is exponentially higher for those who belong to ethnic or racial minorities and indigenous communities within the regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific.

  8. Around 550 million multidimensionally poor people across the world do not possess assets such as radio, television, telephone, computer, animal cart, bicycle, motorbike and refrigerator. Around 568 million people do not have access to a source of drinking water within 15 minutes of walking distance. Moreover, 678 million people lack access to electricity.

  9. Of all the people facing multidimensional poverty worldwide in 2021, 481 million live with a child who is out of school and 635 million are part of households where none of the family members have completed six years of school education.

  10. As per the report, 836 million people who are multidimensionally poor are part of households in which not a single girl or woman has finished six years or more of school education. Of these 836 million people, around 363 million reside in Sub-Saharan Africa and 350 million are residents of South Asia.

  11. The report notes that levels of multidimensional poverty were declining in the years immediately prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic exacerbated the situation of multidimensionally poor people as they remained deprived of vital social protection programmes, healthcare and employment opportunities.

    Focus and Factoids by Amarabati Bhattacharyya.


    PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.


United Nations Development Programme, New York and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Oxford


United Nations Development Programme, New York and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Oxford


07 Oct, 2021