Methods: This study used data from a cross-sectional survey of 2,034 Afghan households in Iran in 2011. Convenience sampling and a semi-structured interview were used to collect the data. Refugee poverty was calculated using monetary and capability approaches to provide a comprehensive picture. Monetary poverty was calculated by comparing the average monthly income of households with the national basic needs poverty lines for each household size. Households with income levels equal to or lower than the poverty lines were categorized as income poor. Poverty using the capability approach was calculated by utilizing an adapted version of the global Multidimensional Poverty Index capturing deprivations in health (poor if any member was malnourished, or any child has died within the five years prior to the survey), education (poor if any school-aged child was out of school, or if none of the adult members had completed at least six years of schooling), and standards of living (poor if the household did not have access to piped water, or a private latrine) among households. The three dimensions of health, education, and standard of living and all indicators within each dimension were equally weighted. Households with a deprivation score of 33% or above were categorized as multidimensionally poor. Using an adapted version of the Ager and Strang’s (2008) framework, associations between poverty and refugees’ documentation status, ethnicity, and dwelling type were explored. Pearson’s chi-square test was conducted to explore correlations between each of these variables and poverty. Cramer’s V test was used to measure the strength of associations.
Results: Findings show high rates of poverty among Afghan households: 47% income poverty and 28% multidimensional poverty. Sixty percent of the income-poor households were not multidimensionally poor, meaning that they did not earn enough money, but were not deprived from minimal health, education, and standards of living. Moreover, 32% of the multidimensionally deprived households were not income-poor, meaning that they had enough money to afford minimum health, education, and standards of living, but were deprived in these areas. Bivariate analyses showed statistically significant (p < .05), but weak (Cramer’s V < 0.3) correlations between multidimensional poverty and documentation, ethnicity, and dwelling type. Documented refugees, Hazara Afghans, and refugees living close to each other (i.e., in colonies) were less likely to experience poverty compared to undocumented Afghans, Afghans from Pashtun and other ethnicities, and refugees living in rural and urban settings.
Recommendations: An absence of income poverty should not be interpreted as lack of deprivation in different aspects of life. For deprivation analyses, comprehensive poverty assessment methods, such as multidimensional indices, should be utilized. Factors such as documentation, ethnicity, and dwelling type should be taken into consideration in resource allocation and service provision for refugees.