Use of household food insecurity scales for assessing poverty in Bangladesh and Uganda
An important dimension of poverty is access to food. Household food security implies access to the food needed for a healthy and productive life. Lack of access to and/or impaired utilization of food contribute to household food insecurity. This study compares the usefulness of a standardized food insecurity scale for determining the food insecurity status of rural and urban households in Bangladesh and Uganda, and for predicting poverty status. The analysis uses data from the IRIS Composite Survey Household Questionnaire (2004), which consists of 1,587 households (approximately 800 households in each country). The coping mechanisms adopted in the presence of food shortages represent the building blocks for the development of the scale (7 items). In order to assess the suitability of the scale as an estimator of the households’ poverty status, the benchmark indicator “daily expenditures per capita” and its relation to the corresponding poverty line serves as the basis for evaluation for each country. The scale provides the means for classifying the households into 3 main groups: Non Food Insecure, Moderately Food Insecure, and Severely Food Insecure. The reliability of the scale is measured via the Cronbach’s Alpha statistic. In addition, the scale is used in regression analysis in order to predict per capita daily expenditures and the poverty incidence. The results show that food insecurity does not always reflect (income) poverty. However, the use of the scale as a predictor of poverty status produces rough estimates of poverty incidence that could be useful as background information. The differentiation of households according to their food security status may be valuable for focusing and developing improved food insecurity mitigation strategies.
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