In the last decades, both academia and UN agencies have increasingly adopted a multidimensional perspective in analyzing and addressing poverty and wellbeing. This was also due to the efforts of UNICEF in promoting the measurement and analysis of child poverty in its multidimensional definition. Following this trend, in their latest work titled “Measuring Child Multidimensional Deprivation: A Sustainability Perspective” (Sustainability 2021, 13, 3922.) Mario Biggeri – Associate Professor and ARCO Scientific Director- and Lucia Ferrone – Phd – present an innovative composite index the CMDI, Child Multidimensional Deprivation Index, to track progress towards the reduction of child poverty that also focuses on dimensions of environmental sustainability.
The Child Multidimensional Deprivation Index (CMDI)
The CMDI index stems from the foundational literature on multidimensional child poverty that is rooted in the work started by UNICEF in the identification of the seven dimensions to measure child poverty – which are nutrition, health, education, information, shelter (or housing), water, and sanitation – and goes a step forward.
Authors present three main innovations in their work. Firstly, deprivation is measured in a continuum at the country level, starting from aggregated data. They move from a definition of child deprivation rooted in individual microdata, to a broader assessment at the country level. They also shift from classic poverty measures, such as poverty headcount derived from a poverty line to a continuous index of deprivation, which allows for a more nuanced understanding and monitoring of child deprivation.
Secondly, the CMDI is derived from the Multidimensional Synthesis of Indicators (MSI) as a method of aggregation, which takes into account the heterogeneity of outcomes, thus allowing for overcoming some of the main limitations of conventional aggregation functions such as the arithmetic and geometric means. The use of the MSI implies that the substitutability of dimensions depends on the overall level of achievement.
Finally, the seven dimensions selected by UNICEF in the severe deprivations approach are complemented by two other dimensions also capturing the environmental dimensions of sustainability, which are, indeed, much more relevant in the Agenda 2030 and address the multi-faceted nature of child deprivation mentioned in SDG1. Authors selected the following dimensions: economic resources, health, nutrition, education, information, water, sanitation, environment, and shelter environment. The main difference with the core dimensions of child deprivation is in the use of economic resources as a proxy for household resources, instead of shelter quality. The two dimensions of environmental sustainability are measured by the level of CO2 emissions of a country, and the percentage of the population having access to clean fuels.
Results demonstrate that CMDI allows to monitor countries’ development – economic, social, and environmental – centred on child wellbeing through an environmental sensitive approach.
While some progress has been made, especially in those countries which have invested in social sector, we are still far from substantially reducing child deprivation and promoting sustainable development.