Food Inflation and Child Health

Image credit: Unsplash: Merkato, Addis Aabab, Ethiopia


Malnutrition is one of the most important early life shocks that have lasting effects on health. An often neglected cause of malnutrition and hidden hunger is high food inflation, particularly in developing countries. This study uses the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey data, matching each child’s early life age in months from the time of conception with the corresponding local monthly food price data to examine the medium-term and long-term impacts of exposure to food inflation during the critical early life window–pregnancy and infancy–on child health. Exposure to one percentage point higher month-to-month food inflation while in-utero increases the risk of under-five stunting by 0.95 percent. The impacts are heterogeneous depending on the month of exposure, highlighting the complicated biological mechanisms through which malnutrition during early life affects human growth. The results are robust to various empirical specifications and potential biases arising from survivor sample selection and age misreporting.

World Bank Economic Review, Volume 36, Issue 3, August 2022, Pages 757–773.