Economic inequality and child stunting in Bangladesh and Kenya: an investigation of six hypotheses

Popul Dev Rev. 2011;37(4):691-719. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2011.00453.x.


Consistent with the increasing focus on issues of equity in developing countries, I extend the literature analyzing the relationship between economic inequality and individual health to the developing world. Using survey data from Bangladesh and Kenya with economic status measured by a wealth index and with three different geographic definitions of community, I analyze six competing hypotheses for how economic inequality may be related to stunting among children younger than 5 years old. I find little support for the predominant hypothesis that economic inequality as measured by a Gini index is an important predictor of individual health. Instead, I find that the difference between a household's wealth and the mean household wealth in the community is the measure of economic inequality that is most closely related to stunting in these countries. In particular, a 1 standard deviation increase in household wealth relative to the community mean is associated with a 30–32 percent decrease in the odds of stunting in Bangladesh and a 16–21 percent decrease in the odds of stunting in Kenya.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Bangladesh / ethnology
  • Child
  • Child Development* / physiology
  • Child Welfare* / economics
  • Child Welfare* / ethnology
  • Child Welfare* / history
  • Child Welfare* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Child Welfare* / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Demography / economics
  • Demography / history
  • Demography / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Developing Countries* / economics
  • Developing Countries* / history
  • Economics / history
  • Economics / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Family Characteristics* / ethnology
  • Family Characteristics* / history
  • Family Health / economics
  • Family Health / ethnology
  • Family Health / history
  • Family Health / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Policy* / economics
  • Health Policy* / history
  • Health Policy* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Income / history
  • Kenya / ethnology
  • Population Dynamics / history
  • Social Class* / history