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Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

Are Women in Rural India Really Consuming a Less Diverse Diet?



It is widely considered that women have less diverse diets than other household members. However, it has been challenging to establish this empirically since women’s diet diversity is measured differently from that of other household members.


In this article, we compare women’s dietary diversity with that of their respective households and thereby generate a measure of “dietary gap.”


We measure women’s “dietary gap” by using the difference of homogenized household and woman dietary scores (using the same scales). This is done using primary data on 3600 households from 4 districts in India. Additionally, we show the robustness of our results to variations in scale and recall periods used to construct the diet diversity scores.


Mean difference tests indicate that women consistently consume 0.1 to 0.5 fewer food groups relative to other household members, with the results being statistically significant at the 1% level. The food groups driving this dietary gap are nonstaples like Vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables, meat/fish/poultry, and dairy.


Results point toward the discrimination faced by women in the variety of the food consumed, the importance of considering comparability in creating indices of diet diversity, and the need to collect more detailed information on diets. To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to examine dietary discrimination faced by women using common scales.

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