Household Food Insecurity, Rapid Food Price Inflation and the Economic Downturn

How did the upsurge in food price inflation in 2007-2009 and the 2008-2009 economic down affect experiences of household hunger according to recent Generalized Household Surveys? Findings from the 2008 round of the GHS, a large nationally representative survey conducted annually by the official statistical agency, show an unsurprising rise in household experiences of hunger in the order of 2-3 percentage points. But this merely captured the early onset of two intersecting crises, excluding the dramatic rise in job losses recorded even as the recovery got underway. An in-depth exploration of this dataset and comparing its findings to similar household cohorts for the 2006 and 2007 rounds of the GHS show that female-headed households suffered more than male-headed households. We investigate 3 determinants of household food security status: location (geography and dwelling type), main household income sources and adult equivalent expenditure patterns (including food spending) to demonstrate this result. During the year preceding the crises, spending on food increased across female-headed households reporting never, moderately and seriously hungry adults. However, the expenditure shares were falling, and this is usually perceived as a sign of rising levels of household welfare. Focusing on the first year of the crises, the complete opposite picture emerges: female-headed households substantially raised the amount of money spend on food. At the same time, the share of food expenditure in their total spending basket dramatically increased. This suggests that households were switching larger portions of their total household spending towards food- signaling a coping strategy to counter a severe livelihood shock. The policy implication is that gender-based targeting in food security policies must incorporate these additional determinants if they are to effectively and sustainably address transitory food insecurity induced by similar livelihood shocks.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-04-25

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