Calorie thresholds and undernutrition in India, 1993–2004

Author name: 
Nidhi Kaicker
Raghav Gaiha

In a recent study, Jensen and Miller (2011) propose a new measure of undernutrition, based on a calorie share of staples threshold. Among the merits of this measure are that (i) it dispenses with calorie norms, and (ii) relies on a behavioural approach to estimate this threshold. What our analysis with Indian household data for 1993 and 2004 points to is that the Jensen-Miller (2011) story is of limited interest and potentially misleading principally because it confines variation in calorie share to a measure of wealth. The calorie threshold is suspect as it is influenced by several other factors-especially food prices-that are omitted. Since even acutely poor substitute in response to changes in food prices, calorie and income thresholds change, and, consequently, the estimates of undernourished. In some cases, the divergences are large. Thus, both the predictive accuracy of the measure proposed and its descriptive richness leave a lot to be desired.

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