USAID Poverty Assessment Tools (PATs) are used to calculate the percent of a population living below one or more national or international poverty lines. PATs are free for use by anyone. Each PAT consists of two components.

The first is a country-specific household survey that collects data on indicators that have been identified as the best predictors of whether a given set of households is very poor, according to the legislative definition of extreme poverty applicable to the country in question. Each survey is approximately 10-20 questions in length. Surveys are available in Excel format and can be easily printed.

The second is a data entry template into which survey data is entered. The templates are connected to a software package that automatically estimates the share of households living below the applicable poverty line. Results can be disaggregated by any number of variables and other relevant statistics on the data can also be easily calculated. Depending on the country, some data entry templates utilize Epi Info and others use CSPro.

PATs greatly simplify lengthy and time-consuming household budget surveys or composite surveys (such as LSMS) the request information on hundreds of potential indicators of income and consumption, focusing instead on a small number of indicators that match the results obtained by these longer surveys. Each tool is designed to be administered in twenty minutes or less, and produces data that can be easily used by partner organizations to determine the percentage of clients or beneficiaries that fall into different poverty categories.

What is the mandate for the Poverty Assessment Tool development project?

U.S. Congressional law requires USAID to develop and certify at least two tools for assessing the poverty level of its microenterprise beneficiaries.

USAID/EGAT/MD contracted The IRIS Center at the university of Maryland to develop, test and disseminate poverty assessment tools that meet Congressional requirements for accuracy and practicality. The Developing Poverty Assessment Tools project began September 16, 2003, and the first phase (PAT I) ended October 31, 2006.

Evidence from the first phase of the project indicated that country-specific tools tend to be much more accurate than international tools; attempting to use the same tool in multiple countries yields very inaccurate poverty estimates even if those countries have comparable income levels. On the basis of that evidence, USAID accepted IRIS’ recommendation that a specific poverty assessment tool be developed, tested, and regularly updated for each country with substantial microenterprise activity funded by USAID.

How does the PAT development team decide which country tools to develop next?

As of 2012, new PATs are not currently being developed. Updates to this situation will be posted to this website when relevant.

Prioritization of countries for tool development is conducted through discussions between the project team and USAID's Office of Microenterprise Development. Countries with higher levels of USAID microenterprise funding are assigned higher priority to receive an assessment tool. Among these countries, the project team searches for suitable, existing integrated household expenditure or income surveys. If none can be found for a high-priority country, the project team arranges its own household field survey to collect the necessary data for developing an assessment tool. The PATs for Senegal and Liberia were developed in this manner.

Because creating a tool from existing data is less time consuming, to date these countries have taken priority in order to get as many tools ready as quickly as possible. However, especially as suitable existing data sources are exhausted, the development team will also pursue original survey data collection in the future.


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