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What do we really know? Metrics for food insecurity and undernutrition

  • Hartwig de Haen

    (Georg-August-University Göttingen)

  • Stephan Klasen

    (Georg-August-University Göttingen)

  • Matin Qaim

    (Georg-August-University Göttingen)

In this article, we critically review the three most common approaches of assessing chronic food insecurity and undernutrition: (i) the FAO indicator of undernourishment, (ii) household food consumption surveys, and (iii) childhood anthropometrics. There is a striking and worrying degree of inconsistency when one compares available estimates, which is due to methodological and empirical problems associated with all three approaches. Hence, the true extent of food insecurity and undernutrition is unknown. We discuss strengths and weaknesses of each approach and make concrete suggestions for improvement, which also requires additional research. A key component will be the planning and implementation of more comprehensive, standardized, and timely household surveys that cover food consumption and anthropometry, in addition to other socioeconomic and health variables. Such combined survey data will allow much better assessment of the problems’ magnitude, as well as of trends, driving forces, and appropriate policy responses.

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Paper provided by Courant Research Centre PEG in its series Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers with number 88.

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Date of creation: 12 Aug 2011
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Handle: RePEc:got:gotcrc:088
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  1. Ecker, Olivier & Weinberger, Katinka & Qaim, Matin, 2010. "Patterns and determinants of dietary micronutrient deficiencies in rural areas of East Africa," Journal of Cooperatives, NCERA-210, vol. 4(2), June.
  2. Klasen, Stephan, 2006. "Poverty, Undernutrition, and Child Mortality: Some Inter-Regional Puzzles and their Implications for Research and Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 2509, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Babatunde, Raphael O. & Qaim, Matin, 2010. "Impact of off-farm income on food security and nutrition in Nigeria," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 303-311, August.
  4. Carola Gruen & Stephan Klasen, 2008. "Growth, inequality, and welfare: comparisons across space and time," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(2), pages 212-236, April.
  5. Foraita, Ronja & Klasen, Stephan & Pigeot, Iris, 2008. "Using graphical chain models to analyze differences in structural correlates of undernutrition in Benin and Bangladesh," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 398-419, December.
  6. Svedberg, Peter, 2002. "Undernutrition Overestimated," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 5-36, October.
  7. Babatunde, Raphael O. & Qaim, Matin, 2010. "Impact of Off-farm Income on Food Security and Nutrition in Nigeria," 2010 AAAE Third Conference/AEASA 48th Conference, September 19-23, 2010, Cape Town, South Africa 97332, African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE);Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA).
  8. Behrman, Jere R & Deolalikar, Anil B, 1987. "Will Developing Country Nutrition Improve with Income? A Case Study for Rural South India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(3), pages 492-507, June.
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  10. Bouis, Howarth E., 1994. "The effect of income on demand for food in poor countries: Are our food consumption databases giving us reliable estimates?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 199-226, June.
  11. Filmer, Deon & Pritchett, Lant, 1998. "Estimating wealth effects without expenditure data - or tears : with an application to educational enrollments in states of India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1994, The World Bank.
  12. Qaim, Matin & Stein, Alexander J. & Meenakshi, J.V., 2006. "Economics of Biofortification," 2006 Annual Meeting, August 12-18, 2006, Queensland, Australia 25584, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  13. Prabhu Pingali, 2004. "Westernization of Asian Diets and the Transformation of Food Systems: Implications for research and policy," Working Papers 04-17, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
  14. Bouis, Howarth & Haddad, Lawrence & Kennedy, Eileen, 1992. "Does it matter how we survey demand for food?: Evidence from Kenya and the Philippines," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 349-360, October.
  15. Masset, Edoardo, 2011. "A review of hunger indices and methods to monitor country commitment to fighting hunger," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(Supplemen), pages S102-S108, January.
  16. Mark Misselhorn, 2010. "Undernutrition and the Nutrition Transition: Revising the undernutrition aspect of MDG I," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 35, Courant Research Centre PEG.
  17. Ecker, Olivier & Qaim, Matin, 2011. "Analyzing Nutritional Impacts of Policies: An Empirical Study for Malawi," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 412-428, March.
  18. Masset, Edoardo, 2011. "A review of hunger indices and methods to monitor country commitment to fighting hunger," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(S1), pages S102-S108.
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