Do food subsidies improve nutritional outcomes of poor households in India?

Household responses to food subsidies: evidence from India

Speaker: Tara Kaul, Evaluation Specialist, 3ie
Discussant: Professor Sonalde Desai, University of Maryland
Chair: Dr Ajay Chhibber, Director General, Independent Evaluation Office, Government of India
Date: 4 July, 3.30-5 p.m.
Venue: Independent Evaluation Office, Shivaji Annexe Building, 2nd Floor, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Marg, New Delhi

This study uses household survey data to examine the effect of food subsidies on the nutritional outcomes of poor households in India. The national food security programme, known as the Public Distribution System (PDS), provides a monthly quota of cereals at substantially discounted prices. This study looks at the effect of the programme by exploiting geographic and household size specific variations in the value of the subsidy resulting from differences in state programme rules and local market prices.

The study finds elasticities for cereal consumption and caloric intake with respect to the subsidy that are small, but higher than estimates from prior literature on food subsidies. The elasticities for calories from all food groups are positive and significant. Thus, households benefit from the PDS in terms of overall food intake and not just through cereals. The study finds a smaller effect in states that have higher levels of corruption. Finally, the study uses the estimates to simulate the caloric impact of the new National Food Security Bill. Download study

This seminar was hosted jointly with the Independent Evaluation Office, Government of India.

Scroll to Top