How Well Do Household Data Characterize Individual Undernourishment? Evidence from Bangladesh

Anna D' Souza, Baruch College, City University of New York (CUNY)
Sharad Tandon, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Despite the fact that undernourishment is defined as an individual-level construct, 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 do indeed distribute food equitably. The principal finding demonstrates substantial inequities in the distribution of calories within the household, with more inequitable distributions amongst undernourished, poor households. Further even in households where it is possible to meet each member’s daily energy requirement, there are still undernourished individuals. The findings suggest that household-level data may be ill equipped to identify the nutrition status of individual household members, with implications for the targeting of food security and nutrition programs.

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Presented in Session 56: Measurement in Population and Environment