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Do Consumer Price Subsidies Really Improve Nutrition?

Author

Listed:
  • Jensen, Robert T.

    (Brown U)

  • Miller, Nolan

    (Harvard U)

Abstract

Many developing countries use food price subsidies or price controls to improve the nutrition of the poor. However, subsidizing goods on which households spend a high proportion of their budget can create large wealth effects. Consumers may then substitute towards foods with higher non-nutritional attributes like taste, but lower nutritional content per unit currency, weakening or perhaps even reversing the intended impact of the subsidy. We present data from a randomized program of large price subsidies for poor households in two provinces of China. We find that the nutritional impact caused by the subsidy was at best extremely small, and for some households actually negative.

Suggested Citation

  • Jensen, Robert T. & Miller, Nolan, 2008. "Do Consumer Price Subsidies Really Improve Nutrition?," Working Paper Series rwp08-025, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp08-025
    as

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    File URL: https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/workingpapers/citation.aspx?PubId=5734&type=WPN
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kochar, Anjini, 2005. "Can Targeted Food Programs Improve Nutrition? An Empirical Analysis of India's Public Distribution System," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(1), pages 203-235, October.
    2. Strauss, John & Thomas, Duncan, 1995. "Human resources: Empirical modeling of household and family decisions," Handbook of Development Economics,in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 34, pages 1883-2023 Elsevier.
    3. Tarozzi, Alessandro, 2005. "The Indian Public Distribution System as provider of food security: Evidence from child nutrition in Andhra Pradesh," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(5), pages 1305-1330, July.
    4. Robert T. Jensen & Nolan H. Miller, 2008. "Giffen Behavior and Subsistence Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1553-1577, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Shimokawa, Satoru, 2010. "Nutrient Intake of the Poor and its Implications for the Nutritional Effect of Cereal Price Subsidies: Evidence from China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(7), pages 1001-1011, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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