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Poverty, undernutrition, and child mortality: Some inter-regional puzzles and their implicationsfor research and policy

  • Stephan Klasen


This paper examines the relationship between measures of income poverty, undernourishment, childhood undernutrition, and child mortality in developing countries. While there is, as expected, a close aggregate correlation between these measures of deprivation, the measures generate some inter-regional paradoxes. Income poverty and child mortality is highest in Africa, but childhood undernutrition is by far the highest in South Asia, while the share of people with insufficient calories (undernourishment) is highest in the Caribbean. The paper finds that standard explanations cannot account for these inter-regional paradoxes, particularly the ones related to undernourishment and childhood undernutrition. The paper suggests that measurement issues related to the way undernourishment and childhood undernutrition is measured might play a significant role in affecting these inter-regional puzzles and points to implications for research and policy.

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Article provided by Springer in its journal The Journal of Economic Inequality.

Volume (Year): 6 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 89-115

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jecinq:v:6:y:2008:i:1:p:89-115
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  1. 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.
  2. Lipton, Michael & Ravallion, Martin, 1993. "Poverty and policy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1130, The World Bank.
  3. Sen, Amartya, 1988. "The concept of development," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 9-26 Elsevier.
  4. Datt, Gaurav & Ravallion, Martin, 1992. "Growth and redistribution components of changes in poverty measures : A decomposition with applications to Brazil and India in the 1980s," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 275-295, April.
  5. Smith, Lisa C & Haddad, Lawrence, 2002. "How Potent Is Economic Growth in Reducing Undernutrition? What Are the Pathways of Impact? New Cross-Country Evidence," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 55-76, October.
  6. Guilkey, David K. & Riphahn, Regina T., 1998. "The determinants of child mortality in the Philippines: estimation of a structural model," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 281-305, August.
  7. Svedberg, Peter, 2002. "Undernutrition Overestimated," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 5-36, October.
  8. Smith, Lisa C. & Ramakrishnan, Usha & Ndiaye, Aida & Haddad, Lawrence James & Martorell, Reynaldo, 2003. "The importance of women's status for child nutrition in developing countries:," Research reports 131, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  9. Klasen, Stephan, 2000. "Measuring Poverty and Deprivation in South Africa," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 46(1), pages 33-58, March.
  10. Adams, Richard Jr., 2004. "Economic Growth, Inequality and Poverty: Estimating the Growth Elasticity of Poverty," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(12), pages 1989-2014, December.
  11. Kenneth Harttgen & Mark Misselhorn, 2006. "A Multilevel Approach to Explain Child Mortality and Undernutrition in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 152, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.
  12. Haddad, Lawrence James & Alderman, Harold & Appleton, Simon & Song, Lina & Yohannes, Yisehac, 2002. "Reducing child undernutrition," FCND briefs 137, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  13. Mark McGillivray, 2005. "Measuring Non-Economic Well-Being Achievement ," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(2), pages 337-364, 06.
  14. Stephan Klasen & Mark Misselhorn, 2008. "Determinants of the Growth Semi-Elasticity of Poverty Reduction," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 176, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.
  15. Sudhir Anand & Martin Ravallion, 1993. "Human Development in Poor Countries: On the Role of Private Incomes and Public Services," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 133-150, Winter.
  16. Svedberg, Peter, 1999. "841 Million Undernourished?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(12), pages 2081-2098, December.
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