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Do Consumer Price Subsidies Really Improve Nutrition?

  • Jensen, Robert T.

    (Brown U)

  • Miller, Nolan

    (Harvard U)

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    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.

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    Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp08-025.

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    Date of creation: Apr 2008
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp08-025
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    1. Robert T. Jensen & Nolan H. Miller, 2008. "Giffen Behavior and Subsistence Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1553-77, September.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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 203-35, October.
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