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Nutritional Aspects of Poverty among Casual Labourer Households in Shillong (India)

Listed author(s):
  • SK Mishra

    (Department of Economics, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong India)

  • JW Lyngskor

    (Department of Economics, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong India)

In this paper we report our findings as to the extent of poverty among the casual labourers of Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya, India. Two views of poverty have been considered; first at the per capita (per month) income level and the second at the nutritional level. Nutritional level has been defined in terms of calorie, carbohydrate, protein and fat intakes of the casual labourer households. We find that income elasticites of calorie availability and carbohydrate availability move close to each other. Income elasticities of protein are always higher than carbohydrate (and calorie). Elasticities of fat are initially larger than others, but with an increase in per capita income they slide down others. At small income levels relatively high-fat-low-protein articles are consumed while with an increase in income relatively low- fat-high-protein articles are consumed. The contribution of carbohydrates to calorie intake decreases with an increase in per capita income. Our findings do not corroborate Behrman and Deolalikar (1987), who showed that the income elasticity of calorie intake was quite low, and not significantly different from zero in statistical terms. If the income elasticity were close to zero, its implication is that improvement in the income of the poor will have little impact on the extent of malnutrition. Then the developmental policies intended to improve nutrition will have to use policy instruments which attack malnutrition directly rather than relying simply on raising income. But that is not the case as shown by our study. However, our findings support Strauss and Thomas (1990), Ravallion (1990). Bouis and Haddad (1992), and Subramanian and Deaton (1996), who find that income elasticities of energy component of food, although small, are yet significantly different from and much larger than zero. Subramanian and Deaton (1996), based on the National Sample Survey data, estimated the expenditure elasticity of calorie intake to lie in the range of 0.3-0.5 and in any case statistically different from zero. In our study, we find that income elasticities of calorie availability (to casual labourers in Shillong) are close to 0.4, which corroborate Subramanian and Deaton. We also find that not only calories, but other nutritional ingredients of food such as carbohydrate, protein and fat availabilities (intakes) also have income elasticities significantly larger than zero and, therefore, raising income to Rs. 800 (per capita per month) or so we may overcome the mal-nutrition problem among the poor.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Others with number 0505011.

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Date of creation: 19 May 2005
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpot:0505011
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  1. Strauss, J. & Thonas, D., 1990. "The Shape Of The Calorie-Expenditure Curve," Papers 595, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  2. 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.
  3. SK Mishra & Prasen Daimari, 2005. "Poverty and Inequality in Rural Assam An Indicative Study of Seven Villages in Udalguri Subdivision, Assam (India)," Others 0504007, EconWPA.
  4. Mishra, SK & Lyngskor, JW, 2003. "Real Wages of Casual Labourers in Shillong (India)," MPRA Paper 1810, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Subramanian, Shankar & Deaton, Angus, 1996. "The Demand for Food and Calories," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(1), pages 133-162, February.
  6. 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.
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