Accepted paper:

Increasing caste inequality in childhood malnutrition in India: trends during 1992-2006


Abhishek Kumar (International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai)

Paper short abstract:

In India, numerous studies have documented economic inequality in childhood nutritional status. However social disparity in child health in under researched in the country. This study examined trends in caste disparity in weight-for-age among children less than three years.

Paper long abstract:

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (ST/SC) have been excluded from dominating Hindu society in India for thousands of years. These two caste groups constitute about one-third of Indian population but still suffer worse health conditions compared to the rest of caste groups of the Indian population. there Using data of the multi-round of the National Family Health Survey conducted during 1992-2006, this paper examine the trends in childhood malnutrition between SC/ST and remaining ("Non SC/ST" or "Other") population in the country and states looking at both the ST/SC's disadvantageous distribution of health determinants. Descriptive statistics, concentration index and multivariate analysis are use in the study. The results show profound and increasing gap in childhood malnutrition between SC/ST and remaining population - the prevalence of underweight was three-fifths among SC/ST compare to about two-fifths among remaining population in 2006. Moreover the gap has reduced in few states while stagnated or increased among many states of the country. Economic inequality is higher among SC/ST's than remaining population and stagnated over the periods. The gap was found to be primarily caused by the ST/SC's lower wealth, education, and use of health care services. Based on the findings this study suggests that in the quest to improve the child health status among ST/SC, policy makers will have to take into account all the barriers such as poor education, economic status, and underutilization of healthcare services which are related to cultural sensitivity and acceptability.

panel LD18
Dominant caste and their culture: Health perspective of the indigenous communities in the South Asian subcontinent and beyond