Nutrition and growth in Italy, 1861-1911: What macroeconomic data hide
We investigate how nutritional status responded to economic growth in Italy during 1861-1911. By combining household-level data on food consumption with population censuses, we estimate that the incidence of undernutrition decreased by about 10-15 percent between 1881 and 1901. Consumption of calories responded elastically to income changes, although declining with the level of household income: on average, income elasticity of calories in 1901 was in the range of 0.3-0.6. Malnutrition, defined as the inadequate intake of macroand micro-nutritients, was reduced. Overall, our findings do not support the pessimists’ view, ubiquitous in the Italian literature. On the contrary, the early phase of Italian industrialization was beneficial to the nutritional status of the bulk of the population, and even more so for the poorest among the poor.
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