Did Indonesia's Crises of 1997/98 Affect Child Nutrition? A Cohort Decomposition Analysis of National Nutrition Surveillance Data

CID Faculty Working Paper No. 90

Steven A. Block, Lynnda Keiss, Patrick Webb, S. Kosen, Regina Moench-Pfanner, Martin W. Bloem, and C. Peter Timmer*
March 2002


This study uses a new survey of households in rural Central Java to assess the nutritional impact of Indonesia's drought and financial crisis of 1997/98. Applying an econometric approach that distinguishes between time, age, and cohort effects to a data set with more frequent time observations over the crisis period than has previously been available, this study reveals significant nutritional impacts. While there was no meaningful decline in child weight-for-age measures, mean weight-for-height declined by over one-third of a standard deviation. Furthermore, blood hemoglobin concentration - an even more responsive indicator, and one that provides insight into the quality, as well as the quantity of the diet - also declined sharply during the crisis. While both indicators subsequently improved, neither had recovered to its pre-crisis level by January 2001. The crisis thus significantly reversed what had previously been a ten-year period of improving nutritional status in Indonesia. We also demonstrate the efficacy of applying econometric decomposition of time, age, and cohort effects to high frequency nutrition surveillance data, and present suggestive evidence of links between maternal undernutrition and the subsequent nutrition of offspring.

Keywords: nutrition, micronutrients, crisis, Indonesia

JEL subject codes: I12, I31, D12, O12, O15

* The authors are grateful to Jack Molyneaux, as well as to seminar participants at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and the World Bank for helpful comments and input. Remaining errors are those of the authors. The paper was produced through the USAID/Indonesia Food Policy Support Project.