Household food security and child nutrition: the interaction of income and gender of household head
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Data from Kenya and Malawi suggest that food security and preschooler nutritional status are influenced by the interaction of income and gender of the head of household rather than simply one or the other. Not only is household food security influenced by total household income but the proportion of income controlled by women has a positive and significant influence on household caloric intake. Households were disaggregated not simply in male- and female-headed households but female-headed households were further disaggregated into de jure (legal head of household is a woman) and de facto female-headed households (male head of household is absent more than 50% of the time). In both Kenya and Malawi, the de facto female-headed households had the lowest income; despite this low income, preschoolers' nutritional status was significantly better than in the higher income male-headed and de jure female-headed households. The ability to improve nutritional status in a low-income environment in the de facto female-headed households is related to a combination of child feeding practices and other nurturing behavior. The findings suggest that interventions that exploit incentives to invest in children can provide more immediate improvements in child health and nutrition where sustained income growth is possible only in the long term.
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