Richard de Groot, Tia Palermo, Sudhanshu Handa, Luigi Peter Ragno, Amber Peterman
Childhood malnutrition remains a significant global problem, with an estimated 162 million children under the age of five suffering from stunted growth. This article examines the extent to which cash transfer programmes can improve child nutrition. It adopts a framework that captures and explains the pathways and determinants of child nutrition. The framework is then used to organize and discuss relevant evidence from the impact evaluation literature, focusing on impact pathways and new and emerging findings from sub-Saharan Africa to identify critical elements that determine child nutrition outcomes as well as knowledge gaps requiring further research, such as children's dietary diversity, caregiver behaviours and stress.
Sudhanshu Handa, Amber Peterman
The ability to correct deficiencies in early childhood malnutrition, what is known as catch-up growth, has widespread consequences for economic and social development. While clinical evidence of catch-up has been observed, less clear is the ability to correct for chronic malnutrition found in impoverished environments in the absence of extensive and focused interventions. This paper investigates whether nutritional status at early age affects nutritional status a few years later among children, using panel data from China, South Africa and Nicaragua. The key research question is the extent to which state dependence in linear growth exists among young children, and what family and community level factors mediate state dependency. The answer to this question is crucial for public policy due to the long-term economic consequences of poor childhood nutrition. Results show strong but not perfect persistence in nutritional status across all countries, indicating that catch-up growth is possible though unobserved household behaviours tend to worsen the possibility of catch-up growth. Public policy that can influence these behaviours, especially when children are under 24 months old, can significantly alter nutrition outcomes in South Africa and Nicaragua.