Looking back: The PPI in 2023 >

David Rodriguez

The PPI team at Innovations for Poverty Action has a broad and ambitious research agenda set out for 2024 to make more accurate, accessible, and user-friendly poverty measurement tools, while continuing to make the PPI available to researchers and NGOs for free as a public good. We will be sharing details on all of those here on the PPI blog in the coming weeks, but we would like to start with a look back at the progress made in 2023.

In many ways, 2023 ended as the PPI’s most productive year so far. Thanks to the trust put on the PPI as an effective tool for targeting and measuring poverty by multiple organizations around the world, we were able to create or update a total of 14 country-specific scorecards — almost as many as during the previous three years combined. This means that as of January 2024, a total of 37 PPI scorecards can be publicly accessed through the Poverty Index website based on data collected within the last 10 years, with nearly half of those having been updated in the past 12 months. The team has also updated most of the available PPIs to use the World Bank’s updated to the 2017 PPP-adjusted international poverty lines. Thanks to these developments, the PPI’s accuracy and global coverage are as high as they’ve ever been, with plenty of opportunities to expand both in 2024.

Alongside the publicly available PPI measurement tools, the PPI team produced nearly a dozen custom-built scorecards for organizations with specific needs beyond the standard PPI, tailoring the model to fit different geographic regions, targeting strategies, or length requirements. In some cases, PPI users saw that by narrowing the focus of a PPI model to a specific population or region (e.g. urban households or those involved in farming), they could improve accuracy by asking more contextually relevant questions. In more complex cases, we adapted the PPI methodology to design poverty “tracking” modules, designed to estimate how households’ welfare was changing from year to year or even season to season. In 2024, we are working on several other extensions of the PPI methodology. To broaden the usefulness of the PPI tools, we are developing scorecards and related tools to measure welfare beyond consumption and wealth, including living income standards, dimensions of the multi-dimensional poverty index, and estimates of vulnerability and food security. On the back end, improvements to the statistical methods used will make the PPI more reliable and accurate for measuring poverty rates and targeting low-income households.

The amount and variety of progress made by the PPI in the past year has allowed us to explore innovative approaches for improving how the tool works. We’ve had the chance to handle vastly different datasets from a wide variety of sources, from official government and private sector data, to remote sensing and satellite imagery. Of course, expanding the reach and quality of poverty measurement tools still faces significant obstacles. The PPI relies primarily on nationally-representative household survey data that remains scarce and infrequent for most low- and middle-income countries. Where that data does exist, many governments and multilateral agencies still need to make significant progress towards a more transparent and timely sharing. Ever-changing economic and political conditions in developing nations also raise important questions for how researchers and social sector organizations can continue targeting and serving the poor when existing data suddenly becomes unreliable. As we move into 2024, our work with PPI users and researchers has reminded us that these challenges are worth addressing, and that reliable measurement tools are as important as ever if we are to continue to make progress towards eradicating poverty. We can confidently say that 2023 was one of the most meaningful years for the PPI, and we expect to carry this further into 2024.