What does the IMMP measure?

The IMMP currently measures fourteen areas of life, identified through research with women and men living in poverty across different contexts.  It measures both material poverty – such as food, water, sanitation and clothing; and non-material poverty – such as relationships, voice, and time-use.  It also assesses education, health and work – not only in term so access but in terms of quality and outcomes.

Our ongoing research is exploring how violence – a fifteenth dimension identified through our early research – can be safely and effectively included in an individual level, multi-topic survey of poverty.

Watch the video for a quick overview of how the IMMP Measure works before exploring each dimension in detail.

Dimensions of the IMMP

Food Dimension


Adequate food is essential to human survival and is a basic human right. Food insecurity has historically been assessed at the household level. This approach does not provide essential information about the experience of individuals within the household, and is based on the incorrect assumption that food is shared appropriately between all members.

The food dimension of the IMMP consists of one theme, constructed from a single indicator measuring food insecurity.

There are eight variables, which ask about the direct personal and individual experience of compromising the quality and/or quantity of food eaten in the 30 days prior to the survey, due to a lack of financial or other resources to obtain it. The initial questions assess issues of mild food insecurity (worry about obtaining food) and each subsequent variable is associated with an aspect indicating a higher level of food insecurity — moderate through to severe food insecurity — according to the theoretical construct of food insecurity underlying the scale.

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Water Dimension


A safe, reliable and sufficient water source sustains life and health, is essential for sanitation, food preparation, and personal and household hygiene, and is fundamental for human dignity and privacy. SDG Target 6.1 aims to achieve ‘universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all’.

The participatory research on which the IMMP is based identified the lack of access to water and difficulties in collecting water as important indicators of poverty. The water dimension of the IMMP consists of three themes: drinking water (source and treatment), domestic water (source and reliability of water for domestic uses), and water collection threats.

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Shelter Dimension


Adequate housing is a human right enshrined in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The provision of adequate shelter remains a major global challenge, and the right to housing includes elements such as legal security of tenure, affordability, location, and cultural adequacy. 

The participatory research on which the IMMP is based highlighted the relationship between poverty and poor housing conditions, with the lack of any housing and poor-quality housing identified as indicating the most severe forms of deprivation.

The shelter dimension of the IMMP consists of three themes: habitability, ownership of essential household items and security of tenure.

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Health Dimension


Various measures of poverty, deprivation and wellbeing assess aspects of health, but do not assess quality, access or acceptability of health care. In the development of the IMMP, participatory research revealed two aspects of health as being of particular importance: health status and health care utilisation.

The health dimension of the IMMP consists of two themes: health status, and health care access and quality. These themes consider indicators of both physical health status and psycho-social health status, and evaluate both general health care use and pre-natal health care use.

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Education is a basic human right. The absence of education limits the opportunity for individuals to improve their lives and fulfil their potential, and constrains national development. The World Bank describes education as a ‘driver of development and one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty and improving health, gender equality, peace, and stability’.

Literacy and numeracy functioning have not been widely measured in household or other surveys to date. It is often assumed that people with some primary education can read, write and do basic arithmetic, but this is not necessarily so. 

During the participatory research that informs the IMMP, both the availability and the quality of education were identified as important, particularly by young people. Women were more likely than men to identify the importance of education and to rank it higher in terms of priorities. 

The education dimension of the IMMP has two main themes: education level, and literacy and numeracy functioning.

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Energy Dimension


In the contemporary world, access to energy is one aspect of an adequate standard of living, enshrined in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. SDG 7 aims to ‘ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all’ by 2030. Energy facilitates the use of a range of services, including lighting, cooking, heating and cooling.

During the participatory research that underpins the IMMP, participants identified those who had access to electricity as less poor than those who did not. The gendered nature of fuel collection was highlighted by participants, with this responsibility falling to women and children (particularly girls), who also spoke of the threats to personal security posed by collecting fuel.

The energy dimension of the IMMP consists of three themes: source and reliability of cooking energy, source and reliability of lighting energy, and threats and hazards associated with energy/fuel collection.

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Sanitation Dimension


In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognised the right to sanitation as a basic human right, essential to the realisation of all human rights. SDG Target 6.2 aims to ‘achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation’ by 2030. 

Access to sanitation is imperative for leading a dignified life, while also improving health, access to education and work opportunities. Due to gender-specific needs, women and girls require sanitation facilities that are safe, are private.

The sanitation dimension of the IMMP is constructed with three themes: toilet facilities, washing facilities, and access to a private changing place during menstruation. All indicators related to sanitation are measured at the individual level, recognising that not all dwelling residents will have access to all sanitation facilities. Access to sanitation facilities is gendered when it relates to personal hygiene and menstruation, and involves having access to sanitary products as well as a private place to change, wash and dry, and/or dispose of sanitary products.

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Relationships Dimension


The importance of social connectedness and interpersonal relationships has been well documented in accounts of what makes a ‘good life’ across time and across cultures. Social exclusion, social isolation or lack of connectedness are themes occurring throughout the literature on multidimensional poverty, and are recognised as ‘missing dimensions’ in efforts to measure poverty in all its forms (Samuel et al., 2017).

The participatory research on which the IMMP is based also identified complex interconnections between poverty, social exclusion and social isolation. Participants across sites spoke of the value of social relationships, both in terms of number and quality. Particularly important themes that emerged across all countries was the importance of mutual reciprocity and support in times of crisis, as well as concerns about dependence (particularly for older people). Thus, the relationships dimension of the IMMP consists of two themes: dependence and support, and participation in community events. 

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Clothing Dimension


Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognises the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to adequate clothing. While much has been written about food and housing, the right to clothing has received relatively little attention among international human rights bodies, policymakers or scholars. Although seldom discussed in these spheres, clothing is an issue of considerable importance to people who are living in poverty. 

Clothing is essential to social engagement, often defining how individuals are positioned within their societies. Clothing has important gender dimensions, given the specific standards of dress considered appropriate for women and men. In terms of shame and stigma, not only the lack of clothing but also the lack of sanitary products during menstruation is a major issue for women.

The participatory phase of the IMMP development indicated that adequate clothing is a priority for many people living in poverty. The clothing dimension of the IMMP is constructed with three themes: basic clothing and footwear, clothing and footwear quality and sanitary product use.

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Family Planning Dimension


Family planning means that people are able to voluntarily choose the number of children they have, and the spacing of pregnancies, through reliable methods of birth control. It includes access to information, contraception and services to ensure people – particularly women – are able to make informed choices freely. The economic and social benefits of family planning and access to contraception are well documented, as are the positive impacts on women's health.

Deprivation in family planning is most commonly measured through ‘unmet need’, which refers to the proportion of women who want to prevent or delay childbearing but are not using any method of contraception. In assessing unmet need, it is important to avoid assumptions about where need is, particularly assumptions arising from social, cultural or religious attitudes that may not reflect practice. 

The IMMP individual survey makes a distinction between modern and traditional forms of contraception. The family planning dimension of the IMMP has one theme: unmet need for contraception.

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Environment Dimension


The link between environmental issues and human rights is increasingly recognised, including rights to life, health, an adequate standard of living, and water. The existence of a safe, healthy and ecologically balanced environment is essential to human wellbeing. Conversely, a polluted environment reduces people’s quality of life and presents risks to health and safety. Although the environment is generally understood as the natural environment, the built environment also has important implications for human wellbeing and the experience of multidimensional poverty. 

The participatory research on which the IMMP is based identified a range of environmental hazards to which poor people are exposed, including inadequate waste management, and polluted air, water and soil. Participants also spoke of the ways in which people living in poverty are reliant on natural resources, and the ways in which poverty and personal safety are linked, with inadequate street lighting and other infrastructure increasing people’s sense of insecurity.

The environment dimension of the IMMP consists of three themes: exposure to environmental problems, natural resource utilisation and crime threats.  

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Voice Dimension


In 1995 the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action made clear that poverty cannot be addressed without inclusive decision-making. The SDGs recognise the relationship between poverty, voice and gender equality. SDG Target 1.B (on ending poverty) calls for the creation of ‘sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions’. Such frameworks cannot be achieved if individuals are unable to express their views and concerns, or are unable to make decisions about their own lives.

The participatory research that underpins the IMMP highlighted the extent to which those who are poor and marginalised are excluded from community-level decision-making. While this is the case for both women and men, women often experience the dual exclusions of gender norms and poverty.

The voice dimension of the IMMP is made up of two themes: voice in the public domain and personal control over decision-making.

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Time Use Dimension


Time is a finite resource, which enables and restricts individual activity. Time use describes all the ways in which people divide time in their everyday lives. The number of hours available to earn an income is critical to economic wellbeing, and time spent in paid work in turn determines the time available for other activities. 

Time use is highly gendered. While men generally spend more time in paid work, a disproportionate amount of unpaid work undertaken by women may create time poverty. Analysing how women and men allocate their time is important in understanding how deprivation is gendered as a result of the unequal division of labour and the invisibility of unpaid care and domestic work.

The time use dimension of the IMMP consists of one theme, time burden and on-call time, which considers nine variables related to various time-uses.

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Work Dimension


Work in all its forms occupies a substantial amount of people’s time and is essential to livelihoods and wellbeing. Work is also closely associated with an individual’s status within their society. While the absence of paid work is often a cause of social stigma, the nature of work may also cause stigma. For marginalised social groups, the need to earn an income may require acceptance of work that is unsafe, unhealthy or humiliating.

Paid work, in all its forms, is highly gendered. Persistent labour market segregation has resulted in women having fewer employment opportunities, which reinforces gender inequality. Unpaid work is often carried out by women, and is undervalued both socially and economically. A critical gender issue relating to work, which is often unrecognised by a smart economics approach, is the dual or double burden. This describes the combination of productive and reproductive labour. While both men and women may undertake both paid and unpaid work, the latter falls heavily to women. 

Women in the participatory research underpinning the IMMP spoke of the barriers to paid employment, the extent of their unpaid work, and their double burden. The work dimension of the IMMP consists of three themes: work for pay, profit and production; unpaid domestic and care work; and the double labour burden.

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