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Allocative Responses to Scarcity: Self-Reported Assessments of Hunger Compared with Conventional Measures of Poverty and Malnutrition in Bangladesh


  • Patrick Webb
  • Jennifer Coates
  • Robert Houser


This paper presents preliminary results from research aimed at assessing the validity of alternative measures of food insecurity. It focuses on: a) links between food security status as defined through self-reporting by households themselves, versus interviewer ratings, and comparator indicators of food access, poverty and nutritional status, b) changes in status over time (for a sub-sample of 125 households surveyed first in the Winter/Spring of 2001 and again in the Spring of 2002), and c) insights gained from more in-depth interaction with the sub-sample households that have influenced the module adaptation and validation process. The research finds that a viable set of around 11 questions from the 'self-reporting' hunger module appears to work well both in characterizing the problems experienced by households in Bangladesh and in identifying households along a continuum of food stresses. Those questions correlate well not only with interviewer ratings but also with a range of comparator indicators commonly used in the analysis of poverty, malnutrition and food insecurity. There is a high degree of concordance between male and female interviewer ratings, as well as between interviewer assessments of change in household conditions between the two rounds of data collection and households’ own assessments of change (versus stability). While many of the variables tested are strongly correlated with the conditions under consideration no single indicator serves well in defining all aspects of food insecurity, be it anthropometry, expenditure, food groups consumed, or caloric adequacy. This confirms the need for composite variables that distinguish between outcomes and processes often generically and simplistically characterized as 'food insecurity' or 'poverty' or 'malnutrition'. Further statistical analyses (parametric and non-parametric, including Rasch) are needed to gain an understanding of how the determinants of these related but different conditions overlap and where they do not.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Webb & Jennifer Coates & Robert Houser, 2002. "Allocative Responses to Scarcity: Self-Reported Assessments of Hunger Compared with Conventional Measures of Poverty and Malnutrition in Bangladesh," Working Papers in Food Policy and Nutrition 13, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:fsn:wpaper:13

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    hunger; bangladesh;

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • O20 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - General


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