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Women’s Autonomy and Child Malnutrition in India
Authors: Dhiman Das
Source: Health and Primary Care, DOI: 10.15761/HPC.1000150
Topic(s): Child health
Women's autonomy
Country: Asia
Published: NOV 2018
Abstract: Despite numerous policy initiatives and major economic transformations, India has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world. This paper examines the effect of women’s autonomy within the household on child nutritional outcomes. In addition, it also examines the effect of public spending on nutritional outcome as well as in improving women’s autonomy. Data from two cross-sectional waves of the National Family and Health Survey (1998-99 and 2005-06) were used. The measures for malnutrition were the height for age standardized score and stunting; the measure of public spending was state-level expenditure in social sectors; and the measure for women’s autonomy was an index based on evidence of decision-making, sources of such power, and contexts of such power. The statistical analyses using multivariate regressions show that women’s autonomy has a significant positive effect on child nutritional outcomes, particularly in cases of severe malnutrition and in states with a high prevalence of stunting. Public spending on development and welfare has a significant effect on nutritional outcomes, with a stronger effect in states that have a high prevalence of malnutrition. In addition, public spending in the social sector has a significant effect on increasing autonomy within the household. The results indicate the importance of women’s autonomy on child nutritional outcomes in the context of other instruments of public policy, as well as the role of public expenditure in improving women’s autonomy in addition to its direct role in improving nutritional outcomes. The study highlights the complementarity of different elements of public spending in achieving development goals.