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Family policy and food insecurity: an observational analysis in 142 countries

Reeves, Aaron, Loopstra, Rachel and Tarasuk, Valerie (2021) Family policy and food insecurity: an observational analysis in 142 countries. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5 (8). e506 - e513. ISSN 2542-5196

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Identification Number: 10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00151-0


Background: Levels of child malnutrition and hunger across the world have decreased substantially over the past century, and this has had an important role in reducing mortality and improving health. However, progress has stalled. We examined whether family policies (eg, cash transfers from governments that aim to support households with children) are associated with reduced food insecurity. Methods: In this observational analysis, we used a dataset of individual-level data that captured experience-based measures of food insecurity and sociodemographic characteristics collected by the Gallup World Poll in 142 countries for 2014–17. We then combined this dataset with indicators of the type and generosity of family policies in these countries, taken from the University of California, Los Angeles’ World Policy Analysis Center. We used multilevel regression models to examine the association between the presence of family policies for households with children and the probability of reporting moderate or severe food insecurity or severe food insecurity (moderate or severe food insecurity was defined as a “yes” response to at least four of eight questions on the Gallup Food Insecurity Experience Scale, and severe food insecurity was defined as a “yes” response to at least seven questions). We controlled for multiple covariates, including individual-level measures of social position and country-level measures, such as gross domestic product. We further examined whether this association varied by household income level. Findings: Using data from 503 713 households, we found that, on average, moderate or severe food insecurity is 4·09 percentage points (95% CI 3·50–4·68) higher in households with at least one child younger than 15 years than in households with no children and severe food insecurity is 2·20 percentage points (1·76–2·63) higher. However, the additional risk of food insecurity among households with children is lower in countries that provide financial support (either means-tested or universal) for families than for countries with little or no financial assistance. These policies not only reduce food insecurity on average, but they also reduce inequalities in food insecurity by benefiting the poorest households most. Interpretation: In some countries, family policies have been cut back in the past decade and such retrenchment might expose low-income households to increased risk of food insecurity. By increasing investment in family policies, progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 2, zero hunger, might be accelerated and, in turn, improve health for all. Funding: Wellcome Trust.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: International Inequalities Institute
Subjects: R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2021 14:06
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 03:01

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