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The Distribution Of Child Nutritional Status Across Countries And Over Time

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  • Bhagowalia, Priya
  • Chen, Susan E.
  • Masters, William A.

Abstract

Malnutrition is manifested in various degrees of both underweight and overweight, with large differences and rapid changes in their prevalence and severity. This paper introduces a new approach to characterizing the distribution of a population’s nutritional status, to help analyze changes in that distribution over time and across countries. Our method draws on the poverty literature to construct Foster-Greer-Thorbecke measures for the incidence and severity of under- and overweight, based on deviations in either direction from the median of a healthy population. We apply this median-based measure to the nutritional status of over 400,000 preschool children, as measured in 130 DHS surveys covering 53 countries over a period from 1986 to 2006. Unlike conventional threshold-based methods, the new approach counts changes in every child’s bodyweight. We find that this offers a more sensitive measure of differences across countries and changes over time, showing in particular that children’s bodyweights are closely linked to local agricultural output and gender equality as well as real GDP per capita.

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Paper provided by American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association) in its series 2008 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2008, Orlando, Florida with number 6167.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea08:6167

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Keywords: Food Security and Poverty;

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  1. T. Paul Schultz, 2001. "Why Governments Should Invest More to Educate Girls," Working Papers 836, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  2. David Madden, 2006. "Body Mass Index and the Measurement of Obesity," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 06/11, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
  3. Behrman, Jere R & Deolalikar, Anil B, 1987. "Will Developing Country Nutrition Improve with Income? A Case Study for Rural South India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(3), pages 492-507, June.
  4. David Sahn, 2009. "Weights on the rise: where and for whom?," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 7(4), pages 351-370, December.
  5. Larrea, Carlos & Kawachi, Ichiro, 2005. "Does economic inequality affect child malnutrition? The case of Ecuador," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 165-178, January.
  6. Smith, Lisa C. & Haddad, Lawrence James, 2000. "Explaining child malnutrition in developing countries: a cross-country analysis," Research reports 111, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  7. Fogel, Robert W, 1994. "Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 369-95, June.
  8. Foster, James & Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1984. "A Class of Decomposable Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 761-66, May.
  9. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher & Phillip B. Levine, 2002. "Maternal employment and overweight children," Working Paper Series WP-02-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  10. Sahn, David E, 1988. "The Effect of Price and Income Changes on Food-Energy Intake in Sri Lanka," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 315-40, January.
  11. David E. Sahn & David C. Stifel, 2002. "Robust Comparisons of Malnutrition in Developing Countries," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 84(3), pages 716-735.
  12. Osmani, Siddiq & Sen, Amartya, 2003. "The hidden penalties of gender inequality: fetal origins of ill-health," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 105-121, January.
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