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Nutrition in India: Facts and Interpretations

Author

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  • Angus Deaton

    (Princeton University)

  • Jean Dreze

    (Allahabad University)

Abstract

In spite of India's rapid economic growth, there has been a sustained decline in per capita calorie consumption during the last twenty-five years. While the decline has been largest among better-off households, it has taken place throughout the range of household per capita total expenditure. For both adults and children, anthropometric indicators of nutritional status in India are among the worst in the world. While these indicators have shown improvement over time, the rate of progress is slow relative to what might be expected based on international and historical experience. This paper presents the basic facts about growth, poverty and nutrition in India, it points to a number of puzzles, and it sketches a preliminary story that is consistent with the evidence. The reduction in calorie consumption cannot be attributed to declining real incomes, nor to any increase in the relative price of food. Our leading hypothesis, on which much work remains to be done, is that, as real incomes and wages have increased, leading to some nutritional improvement, there has been an offsetting reduction in calorie requirements due to declining levels of physical activity and possibly also to various improvements in the health environment. If correct, this analysis does not imply that Indians are currently adequately nourished; nothing could be further from the truth. Calorie intake has serious limitations as a nutritional intake; while calories are extremely important, there are too many sources of variation in calorie requirements for standard, invariant, calorie-norms to be usefully applied to large sections of the population. We conclude with a plea for better, and more regular, monitoring of nutritional status in India.

Suggested Citation

  • Angus Deaton & Jean Dreze, 2008. "Nutrition in India: Facts and Interpretations," Working Papers 1071, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:rpdevs:deaton_nutrition_in_india_facts_and_interpretations_epw.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Alessandro Tarozzi & Aprajit Mahajan, 2007. "Child Nutrition in India in the Nineties," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55, pages 441-486.
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    6. repec:pri:cheawb:deaton_bozzoli_child_mortality_income_height_march_07_complete_with_abstract.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
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    8. 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.
    9. Dreze, Jean & Sen, Amartya, 2002. "India: Development and Participation," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, edition 2, number 9780199257492.
    10. Lawrence Haddad & Harold Alderman & Simon Appleton & Lina Song & Yisehac Yohannes, 2003. "Reducing Child Malnutrition: How Far Does Income Growth Take Us?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 17(1), pages 107-131, June.
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    13. repec:pri:rpdevs:deaton_bozzoli_child_mortality_income_height_march_07_complete_with_abstract is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Ashish Singh, 2011. "Inequality of Opportunity in Indian Children: The Case of Immunization and Nutrition," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 30(6), pages 861-883, December.
    2. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4319 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Baffes, John & Dennis, Allen, 2013. "Long-term drivers of food prices," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6455, The World Bank.
    4. John Baffes & Tassos Haniotis, 2016. "What Explains Agricultural Price Movements?," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 706-721, September.
    5. Fan, Linlin & Nogueira, Lia & Baylis, Katherine R., 2013. "Agricultural Market Reforms and Nutritional Transition in Rural China," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 150203, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    6. Denis Cogneau & Rémi Jedwab, 2008. "Family income and child outcomes: the 1990 cocoa price shock in Cote d’Ivoire," Working Papers DT/2008/05, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    7. Singh, Prakarsh, 2011. "Performance Pay and Information: Reducing Child Malnutrition in Urban Slums," MPRA Paper 29403, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. V B Athreya & R. V. Bhavani & G. Anuradha & R. Gopinath & A Sakthi Velan, 2015. "Report on the State of Food Insecurity in Rural India," Working Papers id:6762, eSocialSciences.
    9. Singh, Prakarsh, 2015. "Performance pay and information: Reducing child undernutrition in India," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 141-163.
    10. Raghav Gaiha & Vani Kulkarni & Manoj Pandey & Katsushi Imai, 2009. "Pro-poor growth, poverty, and inequality in rural Vietnam: welfare gap between the ethnic majority and minority," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 0907, Economics, The University of Manchester.
    11. Perkins, Jessica M. & Khan, Kashif T. & Smith, George Davey & Subramanian, S.V., 2011. "Patterns and trends of adult height in India in 2005-2006," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 184-193, March.
    12. Singh, Prakarsh, 2011. "Spillovers in learning and behavior: Evidence from a nutritional information campaign in urban slums," MPRA Paper 33362, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    India;

    JEL classification:

    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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