Measuring multidimensional poverty among youth in South Africa at the sub-national level

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University of Cape Town


Research evidence points to the multiple forms of deprivation faced by the current generation of young people in South Africa. Little is known about the way in which these various deprivations interrelate - and the extent to which they vary from one local area to another. This paper suggests the adoption of a Multidimensional Poverty Index for Youth as a useful way to integrate a number of dimensions of deprivation into an aggregate measure that can then be used to flag variations in aggregate deprivation across local areas of South Africa. The measure presented draws on the internationally recognized Alkire Foster methodology. However, it is adapted to include dimensions, indicators and deprivation cut-offs selected specifically to reflect the unique experiences of this youth cohort in the context of post-apartheid South Africa. Using National Census 2011 data, the Youth Multidimensional Poverty Index (Youth MPI) quantifies the nature and extent of multidimensional poverty among youth aged 15-24 and allows for a comparison of its spatial distribution across relatively small geographical regions. The results indicate a highly unequal spatial distribution of youth multidimensional poverty between local municipalities, with the highest levels of youth poverty concentrated in the former homeland areas. Analysis of the separate indicators that make up the Youth MPI indicate that 72% of multidimensionally poor youth are deprived in educational attainment. Further investigation suggests that deprivation in education and economic opportunities contribute the highest shares to the overall Youth MPI score. The results illustrate the potential usefulness of the Youth MPI as a tool for informing and targeting policies and interventions directed at youth.