Ethnic Groups Continue in Grip of Disparity in Poverty

Majority of the countries across the world experience disparities in multidimensional poverty among ethnic groups and in nine ethnic groups more than 90 percent of the population is trapped in poverty, said a new analysis on global multidimensional poverty released on October 7, 2021.

In some cases, the disparities across ethnic and racial groups are greater than across regions within a country, said the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative.


The analysis finds that multidimensional poverty among different ethnic groups within a country can vary immensely. As an example, they said that the difference in the percentage of people who are multidimensionally poor across ethnic groups is more than 70 percentage points in Gabon and Nigeria. In Latin America, indigenous peoples are among the poorest. For instance, in Bolivia indigenous communities account for about 44 percent of the population but represent 75 percent of multidimensionally poor people. The figures are also stark in India where five out of six multidimensionally poor people were from lower tribes or castes.


 The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) measures poverty by considering various deprivations experienced by people in their daily lives, including poor health, insufficient education and a low standard of living. The analysis also looked into the level and composition of multidimensional poverty across 109 countries covering 5.9 billion people and presents an ethnicity/race/caste disaggregation for 41 countries with available information

The analysis also maps out next steps. The MPI combines the incidence and the intensity of poverty. The two poorest ethnic groups in Gambia – the Wollof and the Sarahule – have roughly the same MPI value, but their deprivations differ, suggesting different policy actions are needed to reduce multidimensional poverty.

An intra-household analysis of multidimensional poverty focused on gender is also included. Worldwide about two-thirds of multidimensionally poor people (836 million) live in households where no woman or girl completed at least six years of schooling. One-sixth of all multidimensionally poor people (215 million) live in households in which at least one boy or man has completed six or more years of schooling but no girl or woman has.

The report also finds that women and girls living in multidimensional poverty are at higher risk of intimate partner violence.

  • Across the 109 countries studied, a total of 1.3 billion people are multidimensionally poor
  • About half of them, 644 million, are children under age 18; and nearly 85 percent live in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia.
  • More than 67 percent live in middle-income countries
  • Around 1 billion people are exposed to health risks due to solid cooking fuels, another billion live with inadequate sanitation, and another billion have substandard housing
  • Around 788 million live in a household with at least one undernourished person and about 568 million lack improved drinking water within a 30minute roundtrip walk


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