Household Dairy Production and Child Growth: Evidence from Bangladesh

Published on 17 July 2018

Research from richer countries finds that dairy consumption has strong positive associations with linear
growth in children, but surprisingly little evidence exists for developing countries where diets are far less
diversified. One exception is a recent economics literature using the notion of incomplete markets to
estimate the impacts of cattle ownership on children’s milk consumption and growth outcomes in
Eastern Africa. In addition to external validity concerns, an obvious internal validity concern is that dairy
producers may systematically differ from non-dairy households, particularly in terms of latent wealth or
nutritional knowledge. We re-examine these concerns by applying a novel double difference model to
data from rural Bangladesh, a country with relatively low levels of milk consumption and high rates of
stunting. We exploit the fact that a cow’s lactation cycles provide an exogenous source of variation in
household milk supply, which allows us to distinguish between a control group of households that do not
own cows, a treatment group that own cows that have produced milk, and a placebo group of cow-
owning households that have not produced milk in the past 12 months. We find that household dairy
production increases height-for-age Z scores by 0.52 standard deviations in the critical 6–23 month
growth window, though in the first year of life we find that household dairy supply is associated with a
21.7 point decline in the rate of breastfeeding. The results therefore suggest that increasing access to dairy products can be extremely beneficial to children’s nutrition, but may need to be accompanied by efforts to improve nutritional knowledge and appropriate breastfeeding practices.

Cite this publication

Choudhury, S. and Headey, D.D. (2018) Household Dairy Production and Child Growth: Evidence from Bangladesh, Economics and Human Biology 30 (2018) 150–161

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