Journal Article


False Positives or Hidden Dimensions – What Can Monetary and Multidimensional Measurement Tell us About Child Poverty?

Published on 1 September 2009

Despite the wide acknowledgement that no child should grow up in poverty, many children around the world live in poor households and miserable conditions. Research efforts to translate children’s specific situation into appropriate concepts and estimates are limited and relatively new; efforts to incorporate these concepts and estimates in policy design, policy monitoring and policy evaluation are even rarer. As a result, the living conditions of many children are ill-documented and the related problems go unnoticed or underestimated by analysts and politicians alike.

This study fills this gap by developing, applying and studying the use of a multidimensional approach to child poverty that is analytically sound, relatively easy to understand and delivering relevant information for policy design and evaluation. It addresses the need for more adequate information, which helps to understand the nature of child poverty and assists policy designers to formulate effective policy responses. Inherent to the production of more information is the tension between different approaches to define and measure the issue of child poverty and to document who is poor and who is not.

There are various reasons for choosing one versus the other poverty approach; these reasons are discussed at length later in this study. The main argument, however, is important in the light of this introduction and is summarized by the questions: Are those children identified as poor by one of those approaches “false positives” in terms of other definitions of poverty? Or does their situation suffer from “hidden dimensions” that are not revealed or incorporated by other poverty definitions?

The study addresses a number of gaps in the literature by providing an in–depth discussion of theoretical issues inherent to (child) poverty measurement and an applied analysis using Vietnam as a primary country case study. It intends to answer not merely questions concerning the magnitude and pattern of child poverty and the mismatch of information provided by different poverty approaches, but also to explore the various conditions under which children in Vietnam live and in which domains children are deprived of decent living conditions.

The study discusses the various approaches to child poverty from a theoretical perspective, analyses the data for Vietnam empirically and links the outcomes of both parts to the policy debate. It has been the ambition to go beyond the mere academic interest of the theoretical and empirical debates and to provide useful instruments and analyses for practitioners and policy makers. It is only through policy that this academic study can actually contribute to making the world for children a better place to live in.

This book is a collection of (published) articles; this implies that each chapter is can be read as a stand-alone piece of work. However, it also means that some overlap between the chapters is inevitable. To guide the reader, sections that show considerable overlap with sections in previous chapters are clearly signposted by means of footnotes.


Keetie Roelen

IDS Honorary Associate

Publication details

published by
Maastricht University
Roelen, K., Gassmann, F. and de Neubourg, C.
MGSoG, volume 2009, issue 15


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