Unequal Households or Communities? Explaining Nutritional Inequality in South Asia

Using DHS data for South Asia, we find that most undernourished individuals are not found in wealth-poor households. They are also not typically found in the same households: 40 percent of households have differing nutritional status among members, and 66 percent of undernourished individuals reside in households with members who are not undernourished. However, household-level factors such as wealth and infrastructure are also at play. Between-household and within-community inequality represents a relatively larger portion of total inequality in undernutrition; however, average community-level undernourishment is generally low. Given these heterogeneities, accurately reaching undernourished individuals through targeted policy is likely to be difficult. While simple categorical targeting metrics such as age or access to sanitation infrastructure does as well as household wealth-based targeting, all targeting methods considered yield large inclusion and exclusion errors, raising questions as to whether nutrition interventions should be targeted.

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