Can Iron-Fortified Salt Control Anemia? Evidence from Two Experiments in Rural Bihar

64 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2016

See all articles by Abhijit V. Banerjee

Abhijit V. Banerjee

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Sharon Barnhardt

CESS Nuffield - FLAME University; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)

Esther Duflo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD)

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Date Written: March 2016

Abstract

Iron deficiency anemia is frequent among the poor worldwide. While it can be prevented with the appropriate supplement or food fortification, these programs often do not consistently reach the poorest. This paper reports on the impact of a potential strategy to address iron deficiency anemia in rural areas: double fortified salt (DFS) - salt fortified with iron and iodine. We conducted a large-scale experiment in rural Bihar. In 200 villages, randomly selected out of 400, DFS was introduced at a price that was half the regular retail price for DFS. After two years, we find no evidence that either selling DFS in villages or providing it for free directly to households has an economically meaningful or statistically significant impact on hemoglobin, anemia, physical health, cognition or mental health. For the sales experiment, we can reject at the 95% level a reduction of 2.5 percentage points in the fraction anemic in the entire sample, and 3.7 percentage points among those who were previously anemic. Using an IV strategy, we find a statistically significant, though relatively small, increase in hemoglobin and reduction in the fraction anemic for adolescents, a subgroup that has responded well to supplements and fortification in earlier studies. These disappointing results are explained both by relatively low take up and by low impact of DFS even when consumed more regularly for the majority of the population.

Suggested Citation

Banerjee, Abhijit V. and Barnhardt, Sharon and Duflo, Esther, Can Iron-Fortified Salt Control Anemia? Evidence from Two Experiments in Rural Bihar (March 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w22121. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2755413

Abhijit V. Banerjee (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02142
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Sharon Barnhardt

CESS Nuffield - FLAME University ( email )

Pune, Maharashtra, 411215
India
9962072412 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.cess-nuffield-flame.org/people/

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) ( email )

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77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Esther Duflo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
Room E52-544
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
617-258-7013 (Phone)
617-253-6915 (Fax)

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD) ( email )

Duke University
Durham, NC 90097
United States

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