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Abstract

Close linkages between agriculture, nutrition and health have been established in the literature, especially recognizing the gender roles in achieving improved nutrition and health. This paper contributes important insights regarding the nutritional status of adult women engaged in agriculture and examines the interaction of human capital (especially education), agricultural diversification, consumption expenditure, and lifestyle choices on their nutritional status. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is used as a proxy for assessing the nutritional status of women. Panel data from the Village Dynamics Studies in South Asia (VDSA) covering households in six villages of semiarid tropics (SAT) of India over the last decade (2005 to 2014) is harnessed to construct a dynasty household matrix and systematize the panel data analysis. Both descriptive and econometric analyses are carried out to examine interaction between nutritional status and factors like education, agricultural diversification, lifestyle, household expenditure, per-capita income of the households. Complementary panel logistic regression analysis using the VDSA household dynasty data suggests that education (or investments in human capital) and per capita income among women have significant positive impacts on lowering malnutrition. The results of model-1 revealed that married women and women belonging to ages more than 34 years are likely to be less underweight compared to unmarried and young women. Similar observation were drawn with women members with higher per-capita income. Likewise, the model-2 results show that women between the ages 25 and above and with higher per capita income are also likely to be overweight. Households with low and medium standard of living are likely to have less overweight women compared to households with high standard of living. The paper concludes that agricultural diversification and education of women do affect women nutritional status. Ultimately, it alerts agricultural planners, researchers and development investors to package crop diversification and lifestyle interventions with targeted nutrition goals.

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