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Socioeconomic inequalities of child malnutrition in Bangladesh

Mohammad Habibullah Pulok (Department of Economics, Southeast University, Dhaka, Bangladesh and Center for Health Economics Research and Evaluation (CHERE), UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Sydney, Australia)
Md Nasim-Us Sabah (Department of Finance, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA)
Ulrika Enemark (Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 5 December 2016




The purpose of this paper is to investigate how socioeconomic status and demographic factors were associated with child malnutrition as well as how these factors accounted for socioeconomic inequality of child malnutrition in Bangladesh during 2007-2011.


Data of this study come from two cross-sectional rounds (2007 and 2011) of the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey. This paper uses ordinary least square models to estimate the correlates of child malnutrition. The study further uses the concentration curve and the concentration index to estimate socioeconomic inequality of child malnutrition in Bangladesh. Finally, the decomposition method is used to explain socioeconomic inequality of child malnutrition in the study period.


Regression analysis indicates that child’s age, breast feeding, child’s birth order, the number of under-five child in the household, household wealth and parental education were strongly correlated with child malnutrition in Bangladesh. This study finds that absolute level of child malnourishment slightly decreased between 2007 and 2011, but socioeconomic inequality increased during this period. Children from the poorest household endured the burden of malnourishment more than those from the wealthiest households. The level of inequality also increased among the rural children, although it remained stagnant among the urban children. Decomposition analysis highlights that parental education had a significant negative relation with the average level of malnutrition, but its role was primarily centred among children from wealthier households.

Practical implications

An approach linking the ministry of health and education with other ministries may speed up the reduction of inequalities in social determinants of childhood undernourishment. Most importantly, there is a need for comprehensive government policies to reduce growing economic inequality and increase the relative income of the poor in Bangladesh.


This study is the first of its kind to apply the decomposition method to explain the socioeconomic inequality of child malnutrition in Bangladesh. This paper presents an enriched understanding of socioeconomic inequality of child malnutrition in Bangladesh during 2007-2011.



Pulok, M.H., Sabah, M.N.-U. and Enemark, U. (2016), "Socioeconomic inequalities of child malnutrition in Bangladesh", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 43 No. 12, pp. 1439-1459.



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