About PATs

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 country-specific 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) that request information on hundreds of potential indicators of income and consumption. Instead, PATs focus on a small number of indicators, analysis of which matches the results obtained by these longer surveys. That is, calculating poverty levels using a PAT will give you the same aggregate results calculating them using the LSMS or other exhaustive survey from which it was derived. 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 do the USAID PATs look like?

Surveys are created in an MS Excel spreadsheet, and the data entry templates are created in either the Epi Info or CSPro software. All tools and templates are posted on this website. For an example of the general format, download and view the Liberia PAT survey as a PDF here.

How do the PATs measure poverty? How do the PATs define "poverty"?

USAID Poverty Assessment Tools (PATs) define poverty in absolute terms, using national or international poverty lines, depending on the country in question.  Each PAT includes a minimum of two poverty lines: either:

-- The national and median national poverty lines for a given country, OR
-- The international $2.50 and $1.25 per day lines

For reporting purposes, we consider those living below the median national or $1.25 per day line to be “very poor.” Those living under the national poverty line or $2.50 per day line are considered “poor.”

When determining which set of lines (national or international) to use for a specific country’s PAT, the tool development team compares the value of the lines for that country and selects the one that is HIGHER.

Most PATs include more than these two standard poverty lines for comparison. See the PAT page for a specific country for a list of other poverty lines included for analysis.

More information on poverty lines can be found on this page: Poverty Lines.

Can one country’s PAT be used in a nearby country if no PAT is available?

No. Because PATs are developed from nationally representative data, they cannot be applied in other countries, even if the countries share similar social, political and/or economic characteristics.   For comparison, try looking at two existing PAT surveys from countries that you believe to be similar.  They will like have some questions in common but many differences as well.

Why do some indicators seem irrelevant in the areas where they must be asked?

Because each tool contains at least fifteen different indicators developed from nationally representative samples, it will often be the case that some of the indicators are not applicable in each part of the country. For example, the Uganda tool contains a question asking, “During the last seven days, for how many days was large fish served in a main meal eaten by the household?” It may seem irrelevant to ask whether a household ate large fish in areas of Uganda where even the wealthy do not eat large fish. If the goal of PAT development were to develop a standardized tool to assess poverty within such a region, such as Northern Uganda, the large fish question would almost certainly disappear as one of the best fifteen indicators for predicting poverty: it would fail to distinguish the “very poor” from the “not very poor” within Northern Uganda. However, this would still encourage the correct poverty prediction: the absence of large fish is associated with extreme poverty. The consumption of large fish has been found to be good indicator to separate “very poor” from “not very poor” for Uganda as a whole, and therefore contributes to the goal of the tool, which is national-level poverty assessment.

Can indicators be adapted or replaced?

No. One way to think of this issue is to consider how a cake is made. A cake recipe consists of a particular combination of ingredients, none of which you would want to eat alone. You would not eat flour alone, nor baking soda, nor butter, etc., but you would happily consume the product of their combination using a good recipe. A PAT is made and used the same way: none of the indicators in the tool necessarily serves as a good indicator of extreme poverty on its own, but the identified set of indicators, properly combined, gives the desired result. Also, one must be careful with substitutions when baking a cake: adding something similar in color and texture instead of the required ingredient can yield unsavory, or even comic, results. The same principle holds for the quantities used of an ingredient. Similarly, the PAT poverty calculation is sensitive to substitutions among indicators used and changes in their units.

History of the PAT Project

A 2003 U.S. Congressional law required 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 (now defunct) 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 IRISí recommendation that a specific poverty assessment tool be developed, tested, and regularly updated for each country with substantial microenterprise activity funded by USAID.

As of 2012, new PATs are not currently being developed but all tools, support materials and live support via the Help Desk (helpdesk@povertytools.org) are still available for free). Updates to this situation will be posted to this website when relevant.


The information provided on this web site is not official U.S. government information and does not
represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.