Is India’s Child Malnutrition Caused by Hunger?

Sonalde B. Desai, University of Maryland
Amit Thorat, National Council of Applied Economic Research
Kriti Vikram, University of Maryland

India just passed a National Food Security Bill (FSB) to provide highly subsidized food to 67% of the Indian population in order to address the problem of malnutrition, particularly child malnutrition. This paper investigates the impact of a similar program already in place that reaches about half of this target population to explore the efficiency and effectiveness of food subsidy in reducing child malnutrition. Using data from India Human Development Survey, a nationally representative survey of households and children, this paper finds that the existing program to be highly ineffective. It fails to increase cereal consumption, reduces food expenditure and does not seem to reduce malnutrition among the below poverty line households that are target beneficiaries of the program. These findings suggest that it may be too optimistic to expect that the expansion of this program via Food Security Bill will reduce child malnutrition.

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Presented in Poster Session 3: Health of Women, Children, and Families