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Calorie Thresholds and Undernutrition in India, 1993–2004


  • Nidhi Kaicker
  • Raghav Gaiha


In a recent study, Jensen and Miller (2011) propose a new measure of undernutrition, based on a calorie share of staples threshold. Among the merits of this measure are that (i) it dispenses with calorie norms, and (ii) relies on a behavioural approach to estimate this threshold. What our analysis with Indian household data for 1993 and 2004 points to is that the Jensen-Miller (2011) story is of limited interest and potentially misleading principally because it confines variation in calorie share to a measure of wealth. The calorie threshold is suspect as it is influenced by several other factors-especially food prices-that are omitted. Since even acutely poor substitute in response to changes in food prices, calorie and income thresholds change, and, consequently, the estimates of undernourished. In some cases, the divergences are large. Thus, both the predictive accuracy of the measure proposed and its descriptive richness leave a lot to be desired.

Suggested Citation

  • Nidhi Kaicker & Raghav Gaiha, 2011. "Calorie Thresholds and Undernutrition in India, 1993–2004," ASARC Working Papers 2011-11, The Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre.
  • Handle: RePEc:pas:asarcc:2011-11

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    Cited by:

    1. C. Sathyamala, 2014. "The political economy of dietary allowances," Chapters,in: Handbook on Food, chapter 11, pages 260-277 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item


    calories; staples; undernutrition; wealth; food prices; India;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis

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