Centre for Development Economics
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics


Maternal Nutrition in India & Sub-Saharan Africa


Diane Coffey

Princeton University and CDE

Thursday, 25th September 2014 at 3:00 PM

Venue : Seminar Room (First Floor)
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics

All are cordially invited

India’s maternal nutrition, neonatal mortality, and low birth weight babies and stunted children amount to one of the world’s greatest health puzzles and policy challenges. Despite India’s economic success, India has among the highest neonatal mortality rates in the world. It would be difficult to overstate the scope of the problem, but unfortunately little can be said precisely. Surprisingly, even basic facts are unknown: there are no nationally-representative estimates of average weight gain in pregnancy or maternal pre-pregnancy weight.

This project uses cross sectional data on women to produce the first nationally-representative estimates of important basic statistics about nutrition in pregnancy in India. In the tradition of early work in demography, which brought careful analytical computations to less than ideal survey data, I apply econometric and demographic techniques for large datasets to estimate pre-pregnancy body mass and weight gain in pregnancy. I find that maternal nutrition in India is even worse than we thought: 41% of pre-pregnant women in India are underweight and weight gain during pregnancy, which averages about 7 kilograms, is not adequate to compensate for poor pre-pregnancy nutrition. Indeed, women in India end pregnancy weighing less than women in Africa begin it, on average. The concentration of childbearing among underweight young women means that even more Indian women are underweight at conception than previously understood.


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