What is the Multidimensional Inequality Framework (MIF)?
Why were the MIF and the Oxfam toolkit created?
In recent years, the gap between the rich and the poor has been increasing within many countries around the world. Oxfam’s latest research shows that last year 26 people owned the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. The gap between rich and poor is pulling us apart, stopping us from beating poverty and achieving equality. Yet this does not have to be this way. Inequality is avoidable if concrete steps are taken to address it.
Oxfam believes that to fight poverty, and to create a more stable and safer world, all inequalities must be tackled. This not only includes economic inequalities but also all other forms of inequalities: from health and educational inequalities to political and participation inequalities, to identity-based inequalities (particularly gender inequality), that constrain peoples' ability to live the kind of life they want and value.
A key feature of this toolkit is that it will enable users to deepen their analysis of the multidimensional aspects of inequality and their drivers, in their own contexts and with a consistent approach.
What is the MIF useful for?
The framework has been developed with a particular focus on measurement and analysis. The toolkit provides a detailed guide to applying the framework, with advice on gathering data and information related to inequalities, and how to use this material to do an in-depth assessment, identifying both the drivers of inequality and potential solutions.
For civil society organisations, this exercise could serve as the basis for a national inequality report, or an internal research paper to inform the team's plans and objectives. It can also help to inform the design and implementation of public campaigns, like the Oxfam campaign Even it Up. It can help you generate ‘killer facts’ and identify appropriate goals, strategies and activities.
Applying the multidimensional inequality framework can itself be a means of generating constructive public debate. In Spain, for instance, one of the countries involved in piloting the use of the framework and toolkit, the team decided to use it as a way to advocate for a National Plan Against Inequalities. Experts and politicians were invited to contribute, to help develop consensus on avenues for inequality reduction.
What is the MIF's theoretical basis?
The framework draws on Amartya Sen’s capability approach to provide a clear methodology to assess well-being. It allows us to examine variations, inequalities in people’s capabilities to live the kind of life they have reason to value. The capability approach rejects an exclusive focus on income or subjective well-being, and defines the quality of people’s lives in terms of a set of valuable things that they can be or do, like being physically secure or having influence over decisions affecting their lives.
The MIF’s approach is innovative, marking a departure from the majority of previous applications of Sen’s capability approach, which have tended to focus on capability-deprivation (measuring rates of deprivation) rather than capability-inequality, which encompasses advantage as well as disadvantage. The development of a capability-based inequality measurement framework is a natural extension to work already undertaken in this field.
For more information and academic references, please visit the CASE website.
How does the MIF relate to the 2030 Agenda?
There are a number of multidimensional socio-economic indicator frameworks that have been developed in recent years. One of them is the 2030 Agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which identifies 17 goals and an indicator framework for measuring and monitoring progress towards sustainable development in 2030.
Some indicators and measures of the MIF draw on and relate to targets within the SDGs and its global indicator framework, which is helpful in ensuring a minimum level of data availability across countries. What the MIF adds is that it entirely focuses on inequalities, measuring and analysing the differences in terms of human wellbeing from a multidimensional perspective, beyond economics.
How is gender justice integrated in the MIF?
Every day, in every country, women are confronted by discrimination and inequality. They face violence, abuse and unequal treatment at home, at work and in their wider communities – and are denied opportunities to learn, to earn and to lead. Women have fewer resources, less power and less influence compared to men, and can experience further inequality because of their class, ethnicity, age and religion.
Oxfam understands gender justice as the full equality and equity between women and men in all spheres of life, resulting in women jointly, and on an equal basis with men, defining and shaping the policies, structures and decisions that affect their lives.
The MIF and the Oxfam toolkit will enable you to identify and measure the differences between women and men in many areas of life – health, physical and legal security, differences in terms of work (paid and unpaid), etc. It encourages the analysis of horizontal inequalities, with gender as one of the key variables of disaggregation that the framework suggests. The MIF provides guidance for analyzing the multiple causes of gender inequality, including harmful, discriminatory social norms and values in different spheres, as well as taking action, putting women at the heart of your work for inequality reduction.
What’s the MIF approach to intersecting inequalities?
Inequalities are multidimensional and deeply intertwined. We understand “intersectionality” in two senses here.
In the first instance, when economic deprivation intersects with identity-based discrimination and spatial disadvantages, we talk about “intersecting inequalities”. Groups and individuals at these intersections experience disadvantages, emerging from social relations of power, in several dimensions, which undermines their capabilities. The process of applying the MIF can help you understand how multiple sources of disadvantages, such as class, gender, race or caste, work together to influence inequalities.
Secondly, inequalities in one area or domain of life may reinforce inequalities in others. It is interesting to identify these crosscutting connections. The Oxfam toolkit provides some guiding questions to do this analysis and identify the most common factors that are correlated with large inequality gaps, or how different combinations of characteristics (class, gender, age, race…) explain differences in outcomes.
Who contributed to the development of the MIF?
This CASE, SOAS and Oxfam collaboration seeks to bridge academic, activist and practitioner perspectives to support Oxfam’s work designing and implementing relevant, solid and effective programmes for inequality reduction. We are very grateful to the many individuals who participated in seminars and workshops (London, Barcelona, Madrid, Guatemala City), contributing to the development of this framework.
The project team was formed by Abigail McKnight (project lead, Associate Director CASE, LSE),
Àlex Prats (Inequality Lead, Oxfam Intermón), Ana María Claver (Policy advisor, Oxfam Intermón), Polly Vizard (Associate Director CASE, LSE), Pedro Mendes Loureiro, (Research Officer, PhD candidate SOAS), Claire Kumar (Senior Consultant), Patricio Espinoza-Lucero (Research Assistant, CASE, LSE), Laurie Mompelat (Research Assistant, CASE, LSE) and Cara Leavey (Research Assistant, CASE, LSE). As advisors: Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva (Executive Director Oxfam Mexico), Ben Fine (Professor of Economics, SOAS), Chiara Mariotti (Policy Advisor Oxfam GB), and Naila Kabeer (Professor of Gender and Development, LSE).
Where was the MIF piloted? What other projects are being implemented?
Despite being a robust, theoretical tool, the MIF needs to be tested and used, so that it is meaningfully contributing to the fight against inequality in many contexts, at different levels –local, national and regional - and for different purposes.
Teams of internal and external experts and allies in Guatemala and Spain have piloted the multidimensional inequality framework at national level during 2017-2019. In 2019, Oxfam teams and other experts and partners in Vietnam and Burkina Faso are joining the experience too. We are also conducting pilots at regional level in Central America and in West Africa, as well as at local level in Andalucía and in the Basque Country in Spain.
Though more critical reflective practice is needed to distil learnings and generate knowledge, you can read more on these experiences and preliminary findings in our blog Get Inspired.
We are happy to help and to receive feedback, questions and contributions. Please, contact us! Inequality.firstname.lastname@example.org