Material wealth is a key factor shaping human development and well-being. Every year, hundreds of studies in social science and policy fields assess material wealth in low- and middle-income countries assuming that there is a single dimension by which households can move from poverty to prosperity. However, a one-dimensional model may miss important kinds of prosperity, particularly in countries where traditional subsistence-based livelihoods coexist with modern cash economies. Using multiple correspondence analysis to analyze representative household data from six countries—Nepal, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Guatemala—across three world regions, we identify a number of independent dimension of wealth, each with a clear link to locally relevant pathways to success in cash and agricultural economies. In all cases, the first dimension identified by this approach replicates standard one-dimensional estimates and captures success in cash economies. The novel dimensions we identify reflect success in different agricultural sectors and are independently associated with key benchmarks of food security and human growth, such as adult body mass index and child height. The multidimensional models of wealth we describe here provide new opportunities for examining the causes and consequences of wealth inequality that go beyond success in cash economies, for tracing the emergence of hybrid pathways to prosperity, and for assessing how these different pathways to economic success carry different health risks and social opportunities.
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