New OPHI research: half the world's poor are children

05 June, 2017

New research by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) at ODID reveals that across 103 low and middle-income countries surveyed, children constitute 34% of the total population – but 48% of the poor, based on a measure that assesses a range of deprivations in health, education and living standards.

The research shows the extent of the challenges facing the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals over the eradication of child poverty.

According OPHI, nearly two out of every five children – 37%, forming a total of 689 million children – are multidimensionally poor. Some 87% of these 689 million poor children are growing up in South Asia and in Sub-Saharan Africa – 300 million in each region. Half of South Asia’s children and two thirds of Sub-Saharan children are multidimensionally poor.

The child poverty report finds that half of multidimensionally poor children live in ‘alert’ level fragile states, and child poverty levels are highest in the fragile states.

The report disaggregates the latest figures for the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) by age group to analyse the particular situation of 1.8 billion children who live in 103 countries. The international definition of a child, used here, is anyone less than 18 years of age.

Global MPI estimates are higher for children than for adults in all 103 countries. Children are also deprived in more indicators at the same time. In 36 countries, including India, at least half of all children are MPI poor. In Ethiopia, Niger and South Sudan over 90% of all children are MPI poor.

Sabina Alkire, director of OPHI at the University of Oxford, says: “These new results are deeply disturbing as they show that children are disproportionately poor when the different dimensions of poverty are measured. This is a wake-up call to the international community which has adopted the global Sustainable Development Goals and takes seriously Goal 1, the eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions. Children are our future workers, parents and citizen/voters. Investing in them brings benefits now and also into the future.”

The new Global Multidimensional Poverty Index Report 2017 was published 1 June at a special event at ODID to mark the 10th anniversary of the OPHI research centre.

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James Jewell / OPHI