Social scientists and policymakers have increasingly relied on asset-based indices of household wealth to assess social disparities and to identify economically vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries. In the last decade, researchers have proposed a number of asset-based measures that permit global comparisons of household wealth across populations in different countries and over time. Each of these measures relies on different assumptions and indicators, and little is known about the relative performance of these measures in assessing disparities. In this study, we assess four comparative, asset-based measures of wealth—the Absolute Wealth Estimate (AWE), the International Wealth Index (IWI), the Comparative Wealth Index (CWI), and the “Standard of Living” portion of the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI), along with a variable measuring television ownership—and compare how well each predicts health related variables such as women's BMI, children's height-for-age Z scores, and infant mortality at the household and survey level. Analyzing data from over 300 Demographic and Health surveys in 84 countries (n = 2,304,928 households), we found that AWE, IWI, CWI, MPI are all highly correlated (r = 0.7 to 0.9). However, IWI which is based on a common set of universally weighted indicators, typically best accounts for variation in all three health measures. We discuss the implications of these findings for choosing and interpreting these measures of wealth for different purposes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health