ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Does India Really Suffer from Worse Child Malnutrition Than Sub-Saharan Africa?

A common continuing criticism of the economic reforms in India has been that despite accelerated growth and all-around poverty reduction, the country continues to suffer from worse child malnutrition than nearly all Sub-Saharan African countries with lower per capita incomes. This paper argues that this narrative, nearly universally accepted around the world, is false. It is the artefact of a faulty methodology that the World Health Organisation has pushed and the United Nations has supported. If appropriate corrections are applied, in all likelihood, India will be found to be ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa in child malnutrition, just as in other vital health indicators.

I thank an anonymous referee of this journal for several helpful suggestions. The paper has also benefited from criticism by Jishnu Das, numerous very helpful discussions with Reuben Abraham and comments by Prashant Reddy, Ursula Schwartzhaupt, and Rajitha Swaminathan. It was the basis of the Chandrasekaran Memorial Lecture at the International Institute of Population Studies, Mumbai, on 8 November 2012, and was originally written for the Program on Indian Economic Policies at Columbia University, funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed do not necessarily refl ect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

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