Animal sourced foods and child stunting

Stunting affects 160 million pre-school children around the world, and imposes significant costs on a child’s health, cognitive development, schooling and economic performance. Stunting in early childhood has been linked to poor dietary diversity, notably low intake of animal-sourced foods (ASFs) rich in high quality protein and other growth-stimulating nutrients. Surprisingly, however, very little economic research has focused on ASFs and child growth. In this paper we redress this omission through an analysis of 112,553 children aged 6-23 months from 46 countries. We first document distinctive patterns of ASF consumption among children in different regions, particularly highly variable patterns of dairy consumption, low consumption of eggs and meat, and surprisingly frequent consumption of fish in several poor regions of Africa and Asia. We then examine how ASF consumption is associated with child stunting in multivariate models saturated with control variables. We find strong associations with a generic ASF consumption indicator as well as with fish and dairy consumption. Finally, we explore why ASF consumption is low but also so variable. We show that non-tradable ASFs (fresh milk, eggs) are a very expensive source of calories in low income countries, and that caloric prices of these foods are strongly associated with children’s consumption patterns. A host of other demand-side factors are also important, but the strong influence of prices implies an important role for agricultural policies – in production, marketing and trade – to improve the accessibility and affordability of ASFs in poorer countries.

Issue Date:
Dec 13 2017
Publication Type:
Conference Paper/ Presentation
Total Pages:
JEL Codes:
Q18; Q15; I15

 Record created 2017-12-13, last modified 2018-01-23

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