Dr. Liza Von Grafenstein

Urbanization – Opportunity or Challenge for Child Health in India

11 January 2021 – 6 August 2021

Research Description:

Urbanization eradicates undernutrition because it increases the availability and access to food products. Children benefit in particular: because of adequate nutrition they are able to grow to their full potential. However, urbanization increases the access to and availability of foods rich in fats and sugar. The consumption of such foods causes child obesity. While a country is undergoing the transformative process of urbanization, undernutrition (I), obesity (II) and micro-nutrient deficiencies (III) are often present at the same time. The simultaneous existence of these three forms of malnutrition constitutes the triple burden of malnutrition.

Due to limited data the literature hardly examines whether urbanization is an opportunity or a challenge for child health. Most researchers focus on factors linked to urbanization or an urban-rural dichotomy to identify if urbanization matters for nutrition. The body of literature which concentrates on urbanization itself hardly studies health effects over time or on the household level. The project bridges this gap in the literature by investigating the ambiguous effects of urbanization on child nutrition, treating urbanization not as a dichotomy, and examining the nutritional status of adolescents – a neglected but important population group.

India is an interesting case for studying the link between urbanization and nutrition because the triple burden of malnutrition is prevalent. The Indian urbanization splits into an economic-demographic transformation and a political acknowledged administrative one. This project investigates if duration of urbanization and political acknowledgement matter for child health and the dominant form of the triple burden of malnutrition. I use quasi-experimental econometrics, as well as spatial and descriptive statistics to analyze secondary data.

This study clarifies if urbanization benefits child health in India. As it sheds light onto the ambivalent role of urbanization, policy-makers will be able to target public health interventions more effectively.


Liza von Grafenstein received her PhD in Economics at the Research Group “GlobalFood” from Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany, in 2020. Since then she has worked as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Georg-August-University Göttingen. For her thesis on Determinants of Child Development, she conducted a field experiment and data collection, including a survey of 2,000 households in rural Bihar. She is currently working on issues related to child health, nutrition, and intra-household allocation of resources. Prior to her employment at the University of Göttingen, Liza graduated in Public Administration in International Development from Cornell University and gained experience at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Bangladesh, India.

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