Building a Material Deprivation Index in a Multinational Context: Lessons from the EU Experience

  • Alessio FuscoEmail author
  • Anne-Catherine Guio
  • Eric Marlier
Part of the Economic Studies in Inequality, Social Exclusion and Well-Being book series (EIAP, volume 9)


Social indicators can play an important role not only at national but also international level, in making it possible to compare the living conditions in different countries according to a set of commonly agreed criteria. For them to play this role in a multinational context, their construction needs to follow methodological principles that ensure their relevance and comparability across countries. This chapter argues that the Euro-Mediterranean countries can benefit from the European Union (EU) experience in building a common framework for monitoring, understanding and also fighting poverty and social exclusion. As a concrete example, it discusses methodological issues raised by the construction of indicators on material deprivation, defined as an enforced lack of a combination of items depicting some aspects of living conditions related to housing conditions, possession of durables and capacity to afford basic requirements. More specifically, this chapter focuses on the selection of items, their dimensional structure, their aggregation in a synthetic measure and their weighting. It also puts in perspective material deprivation and income-based poverty indicators to emphasise the complementarity of the two approaches when applied to a group of countries with heterogeneous standards of living. It covers 24 EU countries.


European Union Social Exclusion European Union Country Material Deprivation Income Poverty 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Vincent Dautel, Daniel Defays, Joseph Deutsch, two anonymous referees, the editors and the participants to the workshop on “multidimensional poverty and pro-poor growth in the MENA countries” (CEMAFI—University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, 11–12 June 2009) for helpful comments. These persons should not, however, be held responsible in any way for the present contents.


  1. Accardo, J., & de Saint Pol, T. (2009). Qu’est-ce qu’être pauvre aujourd’hui en Europe? L’analyse du consensus sur les privations. Economie et Statistique, 421, 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atkinson, A. B. (2003). Multidimensional deprivation: Contrasting social welfare and counting approaches. Journal of Economic Inequality, 1, 51–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atkinson, A. B., & Marlier, E. (2010). Analysing and measuring social inclusion in a global context, Report ST/ESA/325 produced at the request of the United Nations [Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)]. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  4. Atkinson, T., Cantillon, B., Marlier, E., & Nolan, B. (2002). Social indicators: The EU and social inclusion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Atkinson, A.B., & Marlier, E. (2011). Human development and indicators of poverty and social exclusion as part of the policy process. Indian Journal of Human Development, 5(2), 293–320Google Scholar
  6. Betti, G., Verma, V. (2000). Measuring the degree of poverty in a dynamic and comparative context: The Euro-Mediterranean countries, in 4èmes Rencontres Euro-Méditerranéennes, Pauvreté et Inégalités dans les Pays Riverains de la Méditerranée, Nice, 25–27 Septembre.Google Scholar
  7. Boarini, R., & Mira d’Ercole, M. (2006). Measures of material deprivation in OECD Countries. OECD Social Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 37. Paris:OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  8. Bossert, W., Chakravarty, S. R., & D’Ambrosio, C. (2009). Multidimensional poverty and material deprivation. ECINEQ Working Paper, 2009–129 Google Scholar
  9. Bourguignon, F. (2006). From income to endowments: The difficult task of expanding the income poverty paradigm. In: D. B Grusky & R. Kanbur (Eds.), Poverty and inequalities. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Brandolini, A. (2008). On applying synthetic indices of multidimensional well-being: Health and income inequalities in selected EU countries, Banca d’Italia, Temi di discussione 668.Google Scholar
  11. Carle, A. C., Bauman, K. J., & Short, K. (2009). Assessing the measurement and structure of material hardship in the United States. Social Indicators Research, 92(1), 35–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chiappero Martinetti, E. (2000). A multidimensional assessment of well-being based on Sen’s functioning approach. Rivista Internazionale di Scienze Sociali, CVIII, No. 2, pp. 207–232.Google Scholar
  13. Conselho Economico E Social (2006). Combating poverty in the Euro-Mediterranean countries, Working Group Report, September.Google Scholar
  14. Decancq, K., & Lugo, M.-A. (2012). Weights in multidimensional indices of wellbeing: An overview, Econometric Reviews, 32(1), pp. 7–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dekkers, G. (2008). Are you unhappy? Then you are poor! Multi-dimensional poverty in Belgium. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 28(11/12), 502–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Desai, M., & Shah, A. (1988). An econometric approach to the measurement of poverty. Oxford Economic Papers, 40, 505–522.Google Scholar
  17. Dickes, P. (1989). Pauvreté et Conditions d’Existence. Théories, modèles et mesures, Document PSELL No. 8, CEPS/INSTEAD, Walferdange.Google Scholar
  18. Dickes, P., Fusco, A., & Marlier, E. (2010). Structure of national perceptions of social needs across EU countries, Social Indicators Research, Vol. 95, No. 1, January, pp. 143–167.Google Scholar
  19. EU Council of Ministers. (1985). Council Decision of 19 December 1984 on Specific Community Action to Combat Poverty (85/8/EEC), OJEC, L 2, Brussels.Google Scholar
  20. Eurostat. (2002). Income, poverty and social exclusion: Second Report, Luxembourg.Google Scholar
  21. Fleurbaey, M., Herpin, N., Martinez, M., & Verger, D. (1997). Mesurer la pauvreté? Economie et Statistiques, 308(309/310), 113–142.Google Scholar
  22. Frazer, H., & Marlier, E. (2008). Building a stronger EU social inclusion process: Analysis and recommendations of the EU network of independent national experts on social inclusion, Brussels.Google Scholar
  23. Fusco, A. (2007). La pauvreté: Un concept multidimensionnel. Paris: L’Harmattan.Google Scholar
  24. Guio, A.-C. (2005). Material deprivation in the EU, statistics in focus, population and social conditions, living conditions and welfare, 21/2005. Luxembourg: Eurostat.Google Scholar
  25. Guio, A.-C. (2009). What can be learned from deprivation indicators in Europe? Eurostat methodologies and working paper. Luxembourg: Eurostat.Google Scholar
  26. Guio, A.-C., Gordon, D., & Marlier, E. (2012), Measuring material deprivation in the EU: indicators for the whole population and child-specific indicators, Eurostat methodologies and working paper. Luxembourg: Eurostat.Google Scholar
  27. Haisken-DeNew, J. P., & Sinning, M. (2010). Social deprivation of immigrants in Germany. Review of Income and Wealth, 56(4), 715–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Halleröd, B. (1995). The truly poor: Direct and indirect measurement of consensual poverty in Sweden. Journal of European Social Policy, 5(2), 111–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jensen, J., Spittal, M., Crichton, S., Sathiyandra, S., & Krishnan, V. (2002). Direct measurement of living standards: The New Zealand ELSI scale. Wellington: Ministry of Social Development.Google Scholar
  30. Krishnakumar, J., & Nagar, L. (2008). On exact statistical properties of multidimensional indices based on principal components, factor analysis, MIMIC and structural equation models. Social Indicators Research, 86, 481–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mack, J., & Lansley, S. (1985). Poor Britain. London: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  32. Marlier, E., Atkinson, A. B., Cantillon, B., & Nolan, B. (2007). The EU and social inclusion: Facing the challenges. Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  33. Marlier, E., Cantillon, B., Nolan, B., Van den Bosch K., & Van Rie T. (2012). Developing and Learning from EU Measures of Social Inclusion. In D.J. Besharov & K.A. Couch (Eds.), Counting the poor: new thinking about european poverty measures and lessons for the United States, International Policy Exchange Series, New York: Oxford University Press. D.J. Besharov & N. Gilbert, (Series Eds.).Google Scholar
  34. Marlier, E. & Natali, D. (eds.), Van Dam, R. (2010). Europe 2020: Towards a more Social EU?, Brussels: P.I.E. Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  35. McKay, S., & Collard, S. (2003). Developing deprivation questions for the family resources survey. Working Paper No. 13, Personal Finance Research Center, University of Bristol.Google Scholar
  36. Munda, G., & Nardo, M. (2003). On the methodological foundations of composite indicators used for ranking countries”, OECD/JRC Workshop on composite indicators of country performance, Ispra, Italy, May 12.Google Scholar
  37. Nardo, M., Saisana, M., Saltelli, A., Tarantola, S., Hoffman, A., & Giovannini, E. (2005). Handbook on constructing composite indicators: Methodology and user guide, OECD Statistics Working Paper, STD/DOC(2005)3.Google Scholar
  38. Nolan, B., & Whelan, C. T. (1996). Resources, deprivation and poverty. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  39. Pantazis, C., Townsend, P., & Gordon, D. (2006). The necessities of life. In: C. Pantazis, D. Gordon & R. Levitas (Eds.), Poverty and social exclusion in Britain. The millennium survey (Chapter 4, pp. 89–122). Bristol: The Policy Press.Google Scholar
  40. Pi Alperin, M. N., & Van Kerm, P. (2009). mdepriv—Synthetic indicators of multiple deprivation, v1.0, CEPS/INSTEAD, Differdange, Luxembourg.Google Scholar
  41. Social Protection Committee. (2008). Child poverty and well-being in the EU. Current status and way forward. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.Google Scholar
  42. TNS (2007). Poverty and social exclusion. Report on the Special Eurobarometer 279/Wave 67.1.Google Scholar
  43. Townsend, P. (1979). Poverty in the United Kingdom. Hardmonsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  44. Tsakloglou, P., & Papadopoulos, F. (2002). Aggregate level and determining factors of social exclusion in twelve European countries. Journal of European Social Policy, 12(3), 211–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Whelan, B. (1993). Non-monetary indicators of poverty. In: J. Berghman & Cantillon B. (Eds.). The European face of social security: Essays in honour of Herman Deleeck (pp. 24–42). Avebury: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  46. Whelan, C. T., Layte, R., Maître, B., & Nolan, B. (2001). Income, deprivation and economic strain. An analysis of the ECHP. European Sociological Review, 17(4), 357–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Whelan, C. T., Nolan, B., & Maître, B. (2008). Measuring material deprivation in an enlarged EU, ESRI Working Paper No. 249.Google Scholar
  48. Willits, M. (2006). Measuring child poverty using material deprivation: Possible approaches, Working paper No. 28, Department of work and pensions.Google Scholar
  49. Zupi M., Estruch-Puertas E., Driouchi, A. & Izzo M. (2009). Social cohesion policies in mediterranean countries: An assessment of instruments and outcomes, FEMISE Research Report No. FEM33-05.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alessio Fusco
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anne-Catherine Guio
    • 1
  • Eric Marlier
    • 1
  1. 1.CEPS/INSTEADEsch-sur-AlzetteLuxembourg

Personalised recommendations