Under nutrition in women linked with their unequal status

The unequal social status of women could play a significant role in the mysterious high under nutrition levels. India has higher than expected levels of stunting and under-weight among children and adults. It’s quite perplexing that children in India are shorter on average and even than poorer children in sub-Saharan Africa. But children’s poor growth is no surprise, given the enormous range of threats to early life health and net nutrition, sanitation and the disease environment, problematic feeding practices, and low social status of young women.
Key observations of Experts:

  • Nobel laureate Amartya Sen focused on food availability and consumption and as per him food consumption alone does not explain the scale of India’s under-nutrition.
  • Dean Spears, an economist, has shown that poor sanitation and open defecation in particular which can be accounted for a large part of the international variation in height, including that between India and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Diane Coffey an economist and a PhD candidate at the Office of Population Research at Princeton University, along with Reetika Khera of the IIT, Delhi has shown that the younger daughters-in-law in a rural joint family have shorter children on average event after controlling other possible factors. As per him, the difference in status between two daughters-in-law is small compared to other social hierarchies in Indian society, such as between men and women, and between high and low caste people. It is possible that these larger status differences also have important implications for Indian children’s health and well-being.
  • Research by Angus Deaton, Professor of Economics at Princeton University, has shown that Indian women’s nutrition is not improving at the same pace as men’s. He has found that Indian men’s heights are growing at nearly three times the rates of women and the gap is widening and genetic variations across and between countries are not important for height.



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