The Impact of Caste: A Missing Link in the Literature on Stunting in India

India is home to some 120 million children under the age of 5, 36 per cent of whom
are chronically malnourished. The associated high prevalence of stunting has generated
a stream of research explaining why chronic malnourishment in India is higher than in
poorer countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Surprisingly, this body of research has overlooked
a crucial feature of chronic malnourishment in India – that is, the difference in stunting
incidence across caste and religious groups. A comparison by social categories reveals that
not only are the height gaps between social groups in India two to three times larger than
the India–Africa gap, but that children from the socio-economically dominant group, the
upper caste Hindus, are even taller than their African counterparts. The report finds significant
caste gaps in child height in samples that are balanced on an extensive set of covariates and show that height gaps are higher in areas where discrimination is more prevalent. Read the full report here.


Authors: Rajesh Ramachandran, Ashwini Deshpande

Source: Institute of Labor Economics