Child Nutrition in India in the Nineties: A Story of Increased Gender Inequality?
We establish some new interesting stylized facts on the changes in boy versus girl nutritional status in India during the nineties, a period of rapid economic growth. Our analysis is based on the comparison, over time and across genders, of the distribution of z-scores calculated for height and weight measures. Overall, we find that child nutrition improved substantially, but we also find that gender differences in nutritional status increased as well, with nutritional status improving substantially more for boys than for girls. Consistent with a large literature that shows the existence of a steep North-South gradient in gender inequality in India, we find that changes in nutritional status appear to be much more similar between genders in the South. We also estimate predicted changes in nutritional status based on changes in the distribution of household wealth (proxied by asset ownership) and a few other observed household characteristics. Actual changes appear to be relatively close to predicted ones in urban areas. For children living in the rural sector the results are more mixed, and we observe that actual changes in weight are quite larger than predicted ones for boys, while they are much worse than the predicted ones for girl height. We also estimate that the predicted changes are generally larger for boys than for girls.
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