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Do Consumer Price Subsidies Really Improve Nutrition?

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  • Robert T. Jensen
  • Nolan H. Miller

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 (e.g., taste), but lower nutritional content per unit of currency, weakening or perhaps even reversing the intended impact of the subsidy. We analyze data from a randomized program of large price subsidies for poor households in two provinces of China and find no evidence that the subsidies improved nutrition. In fact, it may have had a negative impact for some households.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert T. Jensen & Nolan H. Miller, 2010. "Do Consumer Price Subsidies Really Improve Nutrition?," NBER Working Papers 16102, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16102
    Note: AG HC
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Thomas, Duncan & Strauss, John, 1997. "Health and wages: Evidence on men and women in urban Brazil," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 159-185, March.
    2. Pitt, Mark M, 1983. "Food Preferences and Nutrition in Rural Bangladesh," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(1), pages 105-114, February.
    3. Ravallion, Martin, 2007. "Geographic inequity in a decentralized anti-poverty program : a case study of China," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4303, The World Bank.
    4. David Stifel & Harold Alderman, 2006. "The "Glass of Milk" Subsidy Program and Malnutrition in Peru," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 20(3), pages 421-448.
    5. Bouis, Howarth E. & Haddad, Lawrence J., 1992. "Are estimates of calorie-income fxelasticities too high? : A recalibration of the plausible range," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 333-364, October.
    6. Strauss, John, 1984. "Joint determination of food consumption and production in rural Sierra Leone : Estimates of a household-firm model," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 77-103.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Obert Pimhidzai & Nina Clare Fenton & Phonesaly Souksavath & Vilaysouk Sisoulath, 2014. "Poverty Profile in Lao PDR," World Bank Other Operational Studies 23023, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy

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