Let’s Stop Trying to Quantify Household Vulnerability: The Problem With Simple Scales for Targeting and Evaluating Economic Strengthening Programs

April 20, 2018
Authors: Whitney M. Moret
Organization: Global Health: Science and Practice

Economic strengthening practitioners are increasingly seeking data collection tools that will help them target households vulnerable to HIV and poor child well-being outcomes, match households to appropriate interventions, monitor their status, and determine readiness for graduation from project support. This article discusses efforts in 3 countries to develop simple, valid tools to quantify and classify economic vulnerability status.  Results from the assessment of tools used in Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda and South Africa, suggest that simple scales are not sufficient to classify vulnerability levels.  Researchers found that there are many pathways to household economic vulnerability, so programmatic responses should be tailored to individual household needs using a case management approach rather than an economic classification based on a scale.  Other recommendations include the use of monitoring and evaluation instruments to capture narrower definitions of vulnerability based on characteristics programs intend to affect.  The findings suggest that there should be a movement away from single, broad-based measurements of vulnerability to the use of separate tools for targeting based on context-specific indicators with evidence-based links to negative outcomes.