While poverty often is measured by the average income or financial resources of a region, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has created a measurement system based on what is lacking in different areas of the world. This measurement is called the Human Poverty Index, also called HPI, and it gathers data in developing countries and in those with higher incomes so a basis for comparison and comprehension of needs can be presented numerically and graphically. Factors such as short life expectancy, low literacy rates, and overall living conditions are recorded in the Human Poverty Index.
Using deprivation as a means to record levels of poverty, the Human Poverty Index compiles data from developing countries, noted as HPI-1, and from a sample of higher per capita income countries, grouped as HPI-2. In the United Nations Human Development Report 2009, values from 2007 included HPI rankings for 182 countries. For example, index ratings for Albania — 4 — and Bosnia-Herzegovina — 2.8 — which are generally considered economically challenged European countries, may seem strikingly lower than the rankings for Afghanistan —59.8 — and Niger — 55.8. However, where one region may lack the most basic resources for producing food and reaching old age, other areas may have plentiful food but be poor in other resources or opportunities. Looking at these imbalances is aided with the Human Poverty Index.
Several categories are used in compiling this index. One of the categories measured is survival, or the likelihood of dying before age 40 in a developing country or before age 60 in a higher-income area. A second category considers literacy and knowledge or who and how many in a population are excluded from educational opportunities and learning to read and write.
Overall quality of life or the standard of living is the third consideration of the Human Poverty Index, and it is measured differently for the HPI-1 and HPI-2 countries. HPI-1 countries are reviewed by the lack of access to clean and safe water and the percentage of children who are underweight, while the HPI-2 countries are measured by the number of individuals living below the poverty income line. This third category can be summarized as a lack of access to resources. A fourth category for the HPI-2, or more developed, countries is that of long-term unemployment and overall lack of opportunity to participate in society.
Within the United Nations Development Program, these indices may change as poverty affects people groups in different ways across the globe. Reports available online through the UNDP website generally include separate variables with gender and age considerations, and these may be sorted as spreadsheets in order to view specific regions or concerns comparatively. Measurements for the Human Poverty Index also may be ongoing, as the UN looks to identify poverty in all its aspects. Attempts to quantify human poverty may bring further capabilities for addressing it, whether through the UN or through other international agencies who utilize the data.