Malnutrition accounts for nearly half of child deaths worldwide. Children who are
well-nourished are better able to learn in school, grow into more physically capable adults,
and require less health care during childhood and adulthood. Moreover, it is difficult to
make up for poor childhood nutrition later in life. I present here the proposal for an
intervention that builds on a larger study in Ethiopia and will generate insights into the
importance of behavioral factors related to persistent malnutrition in low-income settings,
allowing for more targeted, cost-effective interventions in the future.
Existing data from the study region, Oromia, Ethiopia, suggest that many mothers know how to
correctly respond to a hypothetical situation where a young child exhibits poor growth. On
the other hand, however, mothers frequently appear unaware about their own children's growth
deficiencies. Together, these facts suggest that false beliefs about the appropriateness of a
child's physical size are a more likely contributor to malnutrition, rather than a weak
understanding of how to help a malnourished child.
The proposed intervention will provide evidence on the relationship between caregiver beliefs
about child nutritional status and the caregiver's behavior, ultimately analyzing how this
relationship influences important nutritional choices for young children in a setting with
limited resources. The study uses a two-by-two randomized trial; the first treatment is a
cash transfer labeled for child food consumption, and the second is the provision of
personalized information about the quality of the child's height compared to other children
like those of the same age and gender in East Africa. Together the two treatment arms will
provide evidence about the relative importance of behavioral versus resource barriers to
improved nutrition. Better understanding of the interaction between these key factors is
essential in addressing one of the foremost health issues facing developing countries today.