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Matching food security and malnutrition indicators: evidence from Southeast Asia

Bühler, Dorothee, Hartje, Rebecca, Grote, Ulrike
Agricultural economics 2018 v.49 no.4 pp. 481-495
children, data collection, food security, growth retardation, households, malnutrition, nutritional status, underweight, Cambodia, Laos
This article aims to understand the relation between household food security and individual undernutrition. The multitude of indicators available raises the question which aspects of food security are captured by the respective indicator. In our analysis, we first assess the relation between the dimensions of food security and households’ socioeconomic characteristics. Second, we examine whether household indicators detect undernutrition in children. Finally, we investigate the role of individual‐specific characteristics for child undernutrition. The analysis is based on a novel data set of 1,200 rural households from Cambodia and Lao PDR, which combines household‐ and individual‐level data. We capture household food security by three indicators including a dietary diversity score, a consumption behavior measure, and an experiential measure. Individual nutrition status is measured via anthropometric indicators. Our results show that different household‐level indicators capture fundamentally different aspects of food security. Moreover, household food security fails to explain stunting for children under five. Dietary diversity indicators, however, explain underweight in children to a small extent. We call for more research on intrahousehold allocation of food and stress the implications of our research for the design and targeting of food and nutrition support programs.