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If we can measure what makes poor people happy, then we can improve pro-poor policies. That’s the view of the director of the Oxford University’s the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Institute (OPHI, which rejects the idea that income is the most significant contributor to human wellbeing. Instead attention is being turned to yardsticks that seem to have little to do with economists’ traditional concerns about productions and consumption of goods and services.

Money is not the simple antidote to poverty says OPHI’s director Sabina Alkire. “We asked poor people to rank what was important to them, and income never came first,” she said. “Religion, relationships and inner peace came up as far more important that you might have imagined given standard development literature.”

The institution is working on the development of a new set of human development indicators-measuring things like empowerment, inclusion, respect and safety. They say that the ways in which these indicators are measured need to be just as robust as conventional economic indicators, because this is the only way to get them factored in the economic policies and evaluate whether the policies are working. They will be arguing for the new indicators to become a global standard for measuring economic development.

“We are trying to add questions about dimensions of life that matter to poor people that we have not asked about before.” Said Dr Alkire.

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