Exploring the meaning of context for health: community influences on child nutritional status in South India

Nancy Luke, Brown University
Hongwei Xu, Brown University

Much research attention has been devoted to community effects on health. The work on neighborhood effects defines communities as spatial units, while the work on social groups, such as race or caste, segregates individuals according to shared histories or identities. Using data from a unique “natural experiment” in South India, we use multi-level modeling to examine both neighborhood and caste contexts in an effort to disentangle which of these influences is more important for child health. In the sample, 26% of children ages 1-6 were born with low birth weight and 40% were underweight at age 1. Preliminary regressions show significant variance across neighborhoods in malnutrition and low birth weight. There are no significant effects of caste on either health outcome, which is a surprising finding for India. Future work will investigate how gender of the child interacts with both community types to produce continued sex discrimination in child health.

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Presented in Session 78: Child health, education and nutrition