Journal article: Big Numbers about Small Children: Estimating the Economic Benefits of Addressing Undernutrition

wbro-feb-2016Different approaches have been used to estimate the economic benefits of reducing undernutrition and to estimate the costs of investing in such programs on a global scale. While many of these studies are ultimately based on evidence from well-designed efficacy trials, all require a number of assumptions to project the impact of such trials to larger populations and to translate the value of the expected improvement in nutritional status into economic terms. This paper provides a short critique of some approaches to estimating the benefits of investments in child nutrition and then presents an alternative set of estimates based on different core data. These new estimates reinforce the basic conclusions of the existing literature: the economic value of reducing undernutrition in undernourished populations is likely to be substantial.


Alderman, Harold; Behrman, Jere R.; and Puett, Chloe. Big numbers about small children: Estimating the economic benefits of addressing undernutrition. The World Bank Research Observer. First published online October 3, 2016.

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The authors acknowledge partial support for their time working on this paper from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Global Health Grant OPP1032713), Eunice Shriver Kennedy National Institute of Child Health and Development (Grant R01 HD070993), and Grand Challenges Canada (Grant 0072-03 to the Grantee, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania), as well as the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets led by IFPRI.

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