Growth is good, but is not enough to improve nutrition

Nutrition is increasingly recognized as an important dimension of economic development, yet relatively little is known about the relationship among development policies, economic growth, and nutrition outcomes. Advancing the knowledge in this field can help policymakers to design strategies and prioritize action for accelerating growth and improving nutrition. To contribute to this process, this paper uses cross-country analysis and an innovative analytical framework applied to two case study countries. We find that policies that foster growth are important for improving nutrition. Agricultural or non-agricultural growth can contribute to improved nutrition, depending on the country’s economic structure and the characteristics of the malnourished people. Agriculture has a strong potential to contribute to the reduction of malnutrition in agriculture-based economies, such as Malawi, whereas in mineral resource-based countries with limited agricultural potential, such as Yemen, industry and service sector-led growth leads to better nutrition outcomes. However, we also find that growth is not enough for improving child nutrition and reducing micronutrient malnutrition. Therefore, pro-growth policy reform needs to be complemented by strategic health and education investments and targeted nutrition programs.

Ecker, Olivier
Breisinger, Clemens
Pauw, Karl
Published date: 
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Series number: 
PDF file: