How Well Do Household-Level Data Characterize Undernourishment? Evidence from Bangladesh
37 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2015
Date Written: May 1, 2015
Although undernourishment is characteristic of the individual, measurement has centered on household-level statistics that make strong assumptions regarding the equitable distribution of calories across household members. Utilizing a novel data source from Bangladesh that reports individual-level calorie intake, we investigate whether households distribute food equitably. We find substantial inequities in the intra-household distribution of calories, with household heads consuming inequitably large shares of total household calories. Furthermore, we find more inequitable calorie distributions among undernourished, poor households. Importantly, these results do not appear to be driven by assumptions about the energy requirements of household members. Due to the inequities, aggregate household-level data misclassify the nutritional status of a large share of the population. These findings have implications for food and nutrition program targeting, which often is based on household-level data.
Keywords: Bangladesh, Food Consumption, Intra-household Allocation, Food Security, Undernourishment
JEL Classification: D12, I15, O12, O53
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