Skip to main content

Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

The Role of Agriculture in Women’s Nutrition: Empirical Evidence from India


In this paper, we establish a statistically important relationship between household agricultural income and women’s BMI using a five-year panel dataset of rural households drawn from 18 villages across five Indian states. Using within household variation over time, we estimate both the extent to which short-term changes in agricultural income are associated with short-term changes in BMI, and the effect of agricultural income growth on BMI growth over a longer term. Over the longer term, and for the group of households that regularly farm, we find a 10 percentage point agricultural income growth to be associated with a 0.10 percentage point growth in BMI. Consistent with the literature, this effect is economically modest, but important considering that we do not find a corresponding effect for growth in non-agricultural income. We show that both the own-production and market purchase of food are associated with nutritional improvements. While women’s BMI is associated with an increase in the consumption of own-produced cereals, the market plays an important role in facilitating access to more nutritious foods like pulses. Lastly, we also find that effects of agricultural income are driven by younger women, in the age-group 15-25 years, who face a particularly strong nutritional disadvantage in India.

Read the article