The Impact of Caste: A Missing Link in the Literature on Stunting in India

62 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2021

See all articles by Rajesh Ramachandran

Rajesh Ramachandran

Heidelberg University - Alfred Weber Institute for Economics

Ashwini Deshpande

Ashoka University

Abstract

India is home to some 120 million children under the age of 5, 36 percent of whom are chronically malnourished. The associated high prevalence of stunting has generated a stream of research explaining why chronic malnourishment in India is higher than in poorer countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Surprisingly, this body of research has overlooked a crucial feature of chronic malnourishment in India – that is, the difference in stunting incidence across caste and religious groups. A comparison by social categories reveals that not only are the height gaps between social groups in India two to three times larger than the India–Africa gap, but that children from the socio-economically dominant group, the upper caste Hindus, are even taller than their African counterparts. We find significant caste gaps in child height in samples that are balanced on an extensive set of covariates. We also show that height gaps are higher in areas where discrimination is more prevalent. Our results suggest that incorporating considerations of caste is essential to understanding the problem of chronic malnourishment in India today.

JEL Classification: I1, J13, J24

Suggested Citation

Ramachandran, Rajesh and Deshpande, Ashwini, The Impact of Caste: A Missing Link in the Literature on Stunting in India. IZA Discussion Paper No. 14173, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3803717 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3803717

Rajesh Ramachandran (Contact Author)

Heidelberg University - Alfred Weber Institute for Economics ( email )

Grabengasse 14
Heidelberg, D-69117
Germany

Ashwini Deshpande

Ashoka University ( email )

University Campus, Plot #2,
Rajiv Gandhi Education City
Kundli, Haryana 131028
India

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