Economic Growth and Child Undernutrition in Africa

01 Feb 2012


Despite recent improvements in economic performance, undernutrition rates in Africa appear to have improved much less and rather inconsistently across the continent. We examine to what extent there is an empirical linkage between income growth and reductions of child undernutrition in Africa. We do this by pooling all DHS surveys for African countries, control for other correlates of undernutrition, and add country-level GDP per capita. We find that increases in GDP per capita are associated with lower individual probabilities of being underweight of about 2.5 per cent per one hundred dollars (4.1 percent for the probability of being stunted). This association is economically meaningful, but other explanatory variables such as mother’s education, socioeconomic status, and poor mother’s nutritional status are quantitatively more important than economic growth and appear to contribute to a slowing of progress in reducing undernutrition in Africa.

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