The Impact of Poverty and Discrimination on Child Height in India




Coffey, Diane
Deshpande, Ashwini
Hammer, Jeffrey
Spears, Dean

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University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center



This brief describes disparities in child height – an important indicator of early life health – in India. The authors find that socioeconomic differences explain why Scheduled Tribe children, who often grow up geographically and socially isolated from other groups, are shorter than general caste children. However, socioeconomic variables alone do not explain why Scheduled Caste children are shorter than general caste children. Instead, height gaps between Scheduled Caste and general caste children are explained by a combination of SES variables and the fraction of households in a Scheduled Caste child’s neighborhood that outrank her household in the caste system. This may be because pregnant mothers experience more stress when they live near general caste neighbors or it may be because of the particular ways in which the general castes enforce their social dominance over Scheduled Castes, such as limiting Scheduled Caste families’ use of clean water.

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