Study: Social Discrimination key factor in Stunting

As per a study of July 2021 titled “The Missing Piece of the Puzzle: Caste Discrimination and Stunting”, children from Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Muslim families are more prone to stunting.


  • Stunting is a condition where body height is less than the accepted range at a given age.
  • Study highlights that, even the socio-economic advantages do not change this correlation between stunting and exclusion.
  • This study was conducted with the aim of understanding the impact of caste and socio-economic factors on stunting in children.

Key Findings of the study

  • As per the study, marginalised castes including SCs, STs and Other Backward Classes (OBCs), reported a higher prevalence of stunting. This is because of the widespread and entrenched practice of untouchability.
  • Stunting was also common among Muslim families, regardless of social status.
  • About one-third of all stunted children in the world are there in India. Children in India are much shorter than children in 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Average stunting in India is 36 per cent while that in Sub-Saharan Africa is 31 per cent.

Significance of the study

This study is significant because earlier, emphasis was on conducting the research on links between child malnutrition, poverty and lack of access to resources.

Factors of stunting

CEDA study highlights five critical factors leading to stunting:

  1. Lack of access to sanitation
  2. Mother’s human capital- that is, her ability to read and the number of years of schooling
  3. Mother’s anthropometric status- that is her height and weight
  4. Asset differences
  5. Intra-household resource allocation

Role of social identity

Child stunting has been associated with poverty because its root cause is chronic malnutrition. But, CEDA study categorised child stunting data into four social categories:

  1. Upper Caste Hindus,
  2. Upper Caste Muslims,
  3. SCs & STs and
  4. OBCs

Children from upper Hindu castes reported lower average rate of stunting (26 per cent) while for other categories this number stand at 40 per cent (SC & ST), 36 per cent (OBCs) and 35 per cent (Upper Caste Muslim).




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