EU Science Hub

Looking at regional poverty from a multidimensional perspective

Street in a poor slum
Dec 29 2014

JRC scientists in collaboration with the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy have built a composite index (MPI-reg) that measures non-income related poverty by studying three dimensions: education, health and living standards. In order to measure poverty at regional level, this information is combined with both data on income and living conditions, while the "degree of urbanisation" is also taken into account.

Results show that in the 24 EU countries studied, the level of non-income related poverty ranges from 0.5% to 13-15%, with Denmark and Sweden having the lowest share of poor people (0.5%) and Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania having the highest (12.2%, 13.1% and 15.5% respectively). A moderate level of poverty (between 2 and 5%) is observed in the UK, Slovakia, Greece, Finland, Malta, Croatia and Estonia.

In general, the results show that in countries with a high and moderately high number of poor people, the worst situation with respect to the scale of poverty is observed in rural areas, and the best situation is observed in large urban areas. On the contrary, in countries with a low number of poor people, in general, poverty is relatively higher in large urban areas.

Regarding the specific results for the three dimensions, the study shows that poverty in education – if linked to the degree of urbanisation – is considerably higher than poverty related to health or living standards. The poverty in education index was highest in southern European countries, namely in Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta and Portugal.
In rural areas, higher poverty with respect to education was observed in almost all countries, with Romania, Bulgaria and Greece showing the highest differences in rates between large urban areas and rural areas. The differences were negligible in Malta and Germany with respect to poverty estimates.

Graph showing the poverty index
©EU, 2014

Degree of poverty (2012) as measured by the composite indicator. National average is represented by the blue bar, whereas the other indicators to specific densities of population.
© EU, 2014

The lowest level of poverty related to health was found in Sweden and Denmark, while the worst results were observed in Latvia and Portugal. Countries with higher level of poverty in health also showed greater differences in respect to the degree of urbanisation. The difference between large urban and rural areas was highest in Bulgaria, Romania and Portugal.

When it comes to living standards, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg showed lowest poverty rates. The worst scenario was found in Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania, with the latter also showing the highest difference between rural and large urban areas.

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