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Title: Essays on drivers of dietary changes in India
Author: Law, Tsz Wing
ISNI:       0000 0004 7655 8991
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis primarily uses the household consumption data from multiple rounds of the National Sample Survey (NSS) which were conducted on a national scale by the government of India from 1987-88 to 2011-12. In each NSS round, Indian households are asked to recall their expenditure in rupee and physical quantity whenever appropriate on over 100 food items along with other non-food items within a specified reference period. The NSS provides comprehensive information on household demographics and also the socio-economic characteristics of the members. But as in other expenditure surveys, it does not collect data on the market prices of various items. To account for this data limitation, we first obtain unit values of food items by dividing the expenditure with quantity purchased and then correct these values for measurement errors and quality effect based on Majumder et al. (2012). The resulted quality and demographically adjusted unit values are used as the proxy for market prices of food items. In terms of specific research issues addressed, we present three empirical studies. Study 1: Trade liberalisation and nutrition Trade liberalisation has been identified in many studies as one of the key causes of the adoption of non-traditional diet in developing countries (e.g. Pingali and Khwaja (2004); Thow and Hawkes (2009); Kearney (2010); Blouin et al. (2009)). However, these studies only provide descriptive evidence on the linkage between trade and diet. In Chapter 2, we perform an econometric analysis with instrumental variables to investigate how trade has actually affected food consumption patterns. Specifically, we examine whether the difference in consumption of cereal and animal products across Indian rural regions before and after the trade reforms in 1991 can be attributed to their differential degree of exposure to tariff cuts. Pooling from the NSS data, this study uses a geographical repeated cross-section dataset to examine this trade-diet link. The measure of regional exposure to trade liberalisation is constructed using Indian Census, product and industry level tariff data obtained from multiple sources. This study not only establishes the trade-diet link, but also investigates the possible channels behind this link. The estimates reveal that food tastes are an important channel in addition to income and prices.3 Study 2: Consumer tastes and nutrition The importance of food tastes as a channel between trade and diet found in Chapter 2 suggests that income and food prices are not the only factors driving the nutrition transition. Indeed, Deaton and Dr`eze (2009) argue that there have been important changes in Indian food habits that are not easily explained by changes in income and food prices. They point out that a simple explanation for the dietary shift from cereals is the changes in 'consumer tastes'. In Chapter 3, we investigate how changes in food preferences have contributed to the nutrition transition in India. A demand system approach is used to estimate time-varying income and price elasticities for cereals in order to infer changes in household preferences for cereals. Our estimates show that Indian demand for cereals have become less responsive to income growth and more responsive to changes in cereal prices. Cereals are found to have become a substitute rather than a complement to animal products in household diets, suggesting that cereals have become less preferred than before. Study 3: Food policy and nutrition As discussed before, the Indian food system has been criticised for its heavy bias on staple grains. Among all food assistance programs, the Midday Meal Scheme (MDMS) is often considered to be the most successful one implemented by the Indian government, at least in terms of outreach (Singh et al. 2013). It is a nationally mandated program which provides free cooked meals to primary students in public schools across all states in the country. These meals are composed mainly of local staples and supplemented with other foods occasionally. In Chapter 4, we look into the whether the provision of free school meals has brought nutritional benefits to Indian households in spite of its focus on calorie and protein sufficiency. In addition to the NSS data, this study also employs data from the District Information System for Education (DICE) to capture the schooling situation faced by households residing in different districts. Through applying propensity score matching (PSM) methods, we find that as compared to households who did not benefit from MDMS, recipient households enjoy a more diverse diet and have a higher daily calorie acquisition. The magnitude of these nutritional gains is shown to differ greatly across households in different social groups. The last chapter of this thesis summarises the findings from the above three empirical analyses and offers insights into how food and nutrition policies can be adjusted to tackle the contemporary challenges of over- and under-nutrition.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available