Does economic inequality affect child malnutrition? The case of Ecuador

Soc Sci Med. 2005 Jan;60(1):165-78. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.04.024.


Economic inequality has been hypothesized to be a determinant of population health, independent of poverty and household income. We examined the association between economic inequality and child malnutrition in Ecuador. Economic inequality was measured by the Gini coefficient of household per capita consumption, estimated from the 1990 Census. Childhood stunting, assessed from height-for-age z scores, was obtained from the 1998 Living Standards Measurement Survey (LSMS). We controlled for a range of individual and household covariates, including per capita food consumption, education, housing, ethnicity, fertility, access to health services, diarrhea morbidity, child care, mother's age and diet composition. Stunting still affects 26% of children under five in Ecuador, with higher prevalence in the rural Highlands and among indigenous peoples. Maternal education, basic housing conditions, access to health services, ethnicity, fertility, maternal age and diet composition were independently associated with stunting. However, after controlling for relevant covariates, economic inequality at the provincial scale had a statistically significant deleterious effect on stunting. At municipal or local levels, inequality was not associated with stunting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Dwarfism / economics*
  • Dwarfism / epidemiology
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Food Supply / economics*
  • Food Supply / standards
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / economics
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Population Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / economics*
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / epidemiology
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Conditions / economics*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data