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Can FAO's measure of chronic undernourishment be strengthened?

  • Smith, Lisa C.
  • Naiken, Logan
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    In its Sixth World Food Survey released at the 1996 World Food Summit, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported that 841 million people in developing countries are chronically undernourished. This number and its country- and regional-level disaggregations have proved tremendously useful to countless aid agencies and researchers. In the context of a recent wave of new nationally-representative household food consumption and expenditure data, this paper examines the estimation methodology underlying this food insecurity indicator, which relies on national aggregate measures of food availability and distribution. The paper finds that the measure is methodologically biased toward national food availability and does not fully account for the effects of poverty—the most widespread cause of food insecurity in developing countries. The implications of this bias for use of the indicator in cross-country comparisons of food insecurity and for tracking changes in it over time are drawn out. The paper concludes by arguing that the time has come to review the potential for employing the new household survey data for strengthening the empirical foundations of the FAO's measure of chronic undernourishment.

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    Paper provided by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in its series FCND discussion papers with number 44.

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    Date of creation: 1998
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    Handle: RePEc:fpr:fcnddp:44
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    1. Klaus Deininger & Lyn Squire, 1996. "A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality," CEMA Working Papers 512, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
    2. Maxwell, Simon, 1996. "Food security: a post-modern perspective," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 155-170, May.
    3. Ravallion, Martin & Chen, Shaohua, 1997. "What Can New Survey Data Tell Us about Recent Changes in Distribution and Poverty?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 11(2), pages 357-82, May.
    4. Haddad, Lawrence James & Peña, Christine & Nishida, Chizuru & Quisumbing, Agnes R. & Slack, Alison T., 1996. "Food security and nutrition implications of intrahousehold bias," FCND discussion papers 19, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. Hongyi Li & Lyn Squire & Tao Zhang & Heng-fu Zou, 1999. "A Data Set on Income Distribution," CEMA Working Papers 575, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
    6. Haddad, Lawrence James & Bhattarai, Saroj & Immink, Maarten D. C. & Kumar, Shubh K., 1996. "Managing interactions between household food security and preschooler health:," 2020 vision discussion papers 16, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    7. Haddad, Lawrence James & Bhattarai, Saroj & Immink, Maarten D. C. & Kumar, Shubh K., 1996. "Managing interactions between household food security and preschooler health," FCND discussion papers 16, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    8. Engle, Patrice L. & Menon, Purnima & Haddad, Lawrence, 1999. "Care and Nutrition: Concepts and Measurement," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(8), pages 1309-1337, August.
    9. Pinstrup-Andersen, Per & Pandya-Lorch, Rajul & Rosegrant, Mark W., 1997. "The world food situation," Food policy reports 7, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
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