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Does monetary poverty reflect caloric intake?


The use of expenditure surveys to measure food insecurity is widely discussed. In this study, we investigate food insecurity in terms of monetary poverty. Using a Malian survey that incorporates exceptionally detailed information on food consumption, we estimate that 35 % of the households are in a paradoxical situation, some poor households managing to cover their caloric requirements by eating cheap calories and some non-poor households not doing so because they consume expensive calories and/or face constraints such as the obligation to share meals with visitors and high expenditure on health care or transportation. These findings highlight precautions that need to be taken when measuring food insecurity through monetary income or expenditure indicators.

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Fig. 1


  1. The workshop has led to a special issue of Food and Nutrition Bulletin: Food and Nutrition Bulletin, vol. 33, no. 3, 2012.

  2. Engel, a nineteenth-century statistician, was interested in the evolution of budget proportions according to income. We are interested in caloric intake, but we simplify it by saying “Engel curve.”

  3. These surveys were conducted with 610 farms in 24 villages in the different production areas of Mali.

  4. The FAO website assessed on 25/03/2012.

  5. Results available upon request.

  6. The highest correlation coefficients were about 0.3.

  7. The poor consume cheaper calories in general. But, the table of descriptive statistics shows that the poor with sufficient calories consume even cheaper calories than the poor with insufficient calories.

  8. Actually, farming in Mali mainly relies on extensive agricultural systems with very few modern inputs. Even if it were possible for farmers to diversify their crops, it would be difficult to do so because of the bad roads and difficulties of accessing inputs. Moreover, as in many other countries, the agricultural policies of the last decades have not encouraged diversification since they have focused on cotton/maize systems and mono-cropping rice. As a result of their isolation (both for accessing inputs and selling outputs), unevenly distributed rainfall, and highly risky natural and economic environment (very low prices of most commodities and production highly unstable) most farmers adopt risk avoidance strategies to insure minimum production of staple cereals in order to be able to feed their household.


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The authors warmly thank:

- Fellow nutritionists from UMR NUTRIPASS of IRD for their assistance with consumption data processing, especially Sabrina Eymard-Duvernay and Edwige Landais;

- Fellow statisticians in Mali, especially Ms. Assa Gakou Doumbia and Balla Keita from the National Institute of Statistics and Siriki Coulibaly from Afristat for their advice for the data recovery;

- The journal’s Editor and Assistant Editor as well as the three reviewers for their detailed comments on earlier versions of this text.

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Correspondence to Ibrahima Bocoum.



Table 4 Main characteristics of household food consumption by region in relation to the level of calorie consumption
Table 5 Monetary poverty lines calculated by region and type of area
Table 6 Matrix of correlation of the variables used in the regressions
Table 7 Average marginal effects

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Bocoum, I., Dury, S., Egg, J. et al. Does monetary poverty reflect caloric intake?. Food Sec. 6, 113–130 (2014).

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  • Poverty
  • Food insecurity
  • Caloric intake
  • Household surveys
  • Mali