Speaker: Dr. Rajesh Ramachandran, Heidelberg University, Germany
Date & Hour: 25 August 2020, 10:00 am
Title: Which Indian Children are Short and Why? The Indian Enigma, Social Identity, and Childhood Malnutrition
India has been long identified with extremely high rates of child malnutrition – the so-called ‘Indian Enigma’ – that are not explained by economic factors. We show that the Indian shortfall is driven entirely by the lower stunting rates of children from the lower-ranked and stigmatized castes. Motivated by this empirical finding, we first show caste gaps in childhood stunting are sizeable and did not decline in the last two decades. Second, employing longitudinal data, we show that these gaps in childhood malnutrition are not transient, and are even larger at age 15 than at age 5. The caste gaps in child malnutrition are stable at all levels of education and asset ownership, indicating that caste is not a proxy for class. Exploring mechanisms that underlie the persistence of caste gaps in stunting, we provide evidence on the importance of stigmatizing but illegal practice of untouchability in affecting height-for-age z scores of children from the stigmatized castes.