The Economic Rationale for Investing in Stunting Reduction

Maternal and Child Nutrition, Forthcoming

27 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2013

See all articles by John Hoddinott

John Hoddinott

Cornell University, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Students

Harold Alderman

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Jere Behrman

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics

Lawrence Haddad

Independent

Susan Horton

University of Waterloo

Date Written: September 12, 2013

Abstract

This paper outlines the economic rationale for investments that reduce stunting. We present a framework that illustrates the functional consequences of stunting in the 1000 days after conception throughout the life cycle: from childhood through to old age. We summarize the key empirical literature around each of the links in the life cycle, highlighting gaps in knowledge where they exist. We construct credible estimates of benefit-cost ratios for a plausible set of nutritional interventions to reduce stunting. There are considerable challenges in doing so that we document. We assume an uplift in income of 11 percent due to the prevention of one fifth of stunting and a 5% discount rate of future benefit streams. Our estimates of the country-specific benefit: cost ratios for investments that reduce stunting in 17 high-burden countries range from 3.6 (DRC) to 48 (Indonesia) with a median value of 18(Bangladesh). Mindful that these results hinge on a number of assumptions, they compare favourably with other investments for which public funds compete.

Keywords: undernutrition, stunting, benefit, cost ratios, economic productivity

JEL Classification: O1, D61, I12

Suggested Citation

Hoddinott, John and Alderman, Harold and Behrman, Jere R. and Haddad, Lawrence and Horton, Susan, The Economic Rationale for Investing in Stunting Reduction (September 12, 2013). Maternal and Child Nutrition, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2324868

John Hoddinott (Contact Author)

Cornell University, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Students ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States

Harold Alderman

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

Jere R. Behrman

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics ( email )

Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science
133 South 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6297
United States
215-898-7704 (Phone)
215-573-2057 (Fax)

Lawrence Haddad

Independent ( email )

No Address Available
United States

Susan Horton

University of Waterloo ( email )

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