The Growth of Poor Children in China, 1991-2000
Why Food Subsidies May Matter
How did rapid growth in per capita income and rising income inequality during 1991–2000 in China affect the health status of Chinese children, given that the disappearance in the 1990s of subsidized food coupons simultaneously increased the importance of money income in enabling consumption of basic foods by poor families? Using the China Health and Nutrition Survey data for 1991, 1993, 1997, and 2000 on 4400 households in nine provinces, we examine the height-for-age of Chinese children aged 2–13, with particular emphasis on the growth of children living in poor households. We use mean regression and quantile regression models to isolate the dynamic impact of poverty status and food coupon use on child height-for-age. Our principal findings are: (i) controlling for standard variables (e.g. parents' weight, height, and education) poverty is correlated with slower growth in height-for-age between 1997 and 2000 but not earlier; (ii) in 2000, poverty is negatively correlated with strong growth in height-for-age; and (iii) food coupon use in earlier periods correlates positively with growth in height-for-age. The general moral is the crucial social protection role that subsidized food programmes can potentially play in maintaining the health of poor children.