There are different approaches to the measurement of poverty. These depend on the objective of the analysis, the nature of the data and the method employed in measuring poverty. The asset index approach applied to data from Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) has gained increasing popularity in recent years, particularly in analyses of the relationship between poverty, health and population issues. The results presented in this paper suggest that it is possible, in the absence of income and expenditure data, to employ the available data from the DHS to measure differences in the socioeconomic status of South African households. The asset index represents an internally coherent, robust and comparable indicator of poverty. An analysis of the relationship between poverty, health and population issues, for which the DHS data set presents a wealth of data, will be impossible without such an asset index.