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The Calorie Consumption Puzzle in India: An Empirical Investigation

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  • Deepankar Basu
  • Amit Basole

Abstract

Over the past four decades, India has witnessed a paradoxical trend: average per capita calorie intake has declined even as real per capita monthly expenditure has increased over time. Since cross sectional evidence suggests a robust positive relationship between the two variables, the trend emerges as a major puzzle. The main explanations that have been offered in the literature to address the puzzle are: rural impoverishment, relative price changes, decline in calorie needs, diversification of diets, a squeeze on the food budget due to rising expenditures on nonfood essentials, and decline in subsistence consumption (due to commercialization). Using a panel data set of 28 Indian states and the national capital territory of Delhi over four time periods (1993–94, 1999–2000, 2004–05 and 2009–10), we test for these alternative explanations. Our results suggest that the puzzle can be explained by a combination of the following three factors: a food budget squeeze, declining subsistence consumption and diversification of diets. We do not find evidence of a strong effect of declining calorie needs.

Suggested Citation

  • Deepankar Basu & Amit Basole, 2012. "The Calorie Consumption Puzzle in India: An Empirical Investigation," Working Papers wp285, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp285
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Balakrishnan, Pulapre, 2010. "Economic Growth in India: History and Prospect," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198065470.
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    Cited by:

    1. Chandana Maitra & Prof. D.S Prasada Rao, 2014. "Poverty-Food Security Nexus: Evidences from a Survey of Urban Slum Dwellers in Kolkata," Discussion Papers Series 512, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
    2. Basole, Amit & Basu, Deepankar, 2015. "Fuelling Calorie Intake Decline: Household-Level Evidence from Rural India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 82-95.
    3. Clément Bellet, 2017. "Essays on Inequality, Social Preferences and Consumer Behavior," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/vbu6kd1s68o, Sciences Po.
    4. Chandana Maitra & Prasada Rao, 2014. "An Empirical Investigation into Measurement and Determinants of Food Security in Slums of Kolkata," Discussion Papers Series 531, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
    5. Kaushal, Neeraj & Muchomba, Felix M., 2015. "How Consumer Price Subsidies affect Nutrition," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 25-42.
    6. Smith, Lisa C., 2015. "The great Indian calorie debate: Explaining rising undernourishment during India’s rapid economic growth," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 53-67.
    7. Kolady, Deepthi & Srivastava, Shivendra & Singh, Jaspal, 2016. "Can agricultural growth explain the reversal of a declining trend in per capita calorie consumption in India?," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, 2016, Boston, Massachusetts 235862, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    8. Clément Bellet & Eve Sihra, 2016. "Less Food for More Status: Caste Inequality and Conspicuous Consumption in India," Sciences Po publications 56, Sciences Po.
    9. Maitra, Chandana & Rao, D.S. Prasada, 2015. "Poverty–Food Security Nexus: Evidence from a Survey of Urban Slum Dwellers in Kolkata," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 308-325.
    10. Chandana Maitra & Sriram Shankar & D.S. Prasada Rao, 2016. "Income Poor or Calorie Poor? Who should get the Subsidy?," Discussion Papers Series 564, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
    11. repec:qld:uq2004:508 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Sumit Mahajan & Alfonso Sousa-Poza & K. Datta, 2015. "Differential effects of rising food prices on Indian households differing in income," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, pages 1043-1053.
    13. Shari Eli & Nicholas Li, 2015. "Caloric Requirements and Food Consumption Patterns of the Poor," NBER Working Papers 21697, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    calorie consumption puzzle; India; panel data;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • I13 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Insurance, Public and Private

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