Youths at Nutrition Risk: Malnourished or Misnourished?

Jay Bhattacharya and Janet Currie

in Risky Behavior among Youths

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2001 | ISBN: 9780226310138
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226309972 | DOI:
Youths at Nutrition Risk: Malnourished or Misnourished?

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Standard human capital theory suggests that youths (or their parents) choose diets in order to maximize utility, subject to two sets of constraints. The first constraint is the information that they have available about the link between food inputs and health outcomes that they care about. The second constraint is the household budget. This formulation leads naturally to the question of whether misnourished youths lack information about the relation between nutrition and health or whether they lack resources (which would imply that nutrition problems are heavily concentrated among the poor). U.S. public policies concerning nutrition are generally predicated on the notion that resource constraints are of paramount importance. In order to assess this hypothesis, this chapter focuses on an array of outcome measures, including various nutrition deficiencies, obesity and high cholesterol, measures of overall dietary quality, and food insecurity. It shows that school-meals programs have positive effects on the quality of the diet, and that most U.S. youths suffer from “misnutrition” rather than malnutrition.

Keywords: youths; nutrition; obesity; high cholesterol; diet; food insecurity; school-meals programs; resource constraints; misnutrition; malnutrition

Chapter.  15204 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economics

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