Material Employment and Child Nutritional Status in a Very Poor Population of Residents and Migrants from Bangladesh in Calcutta, India

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Investigations of the effects of maternal employment on child nutrition in poor populations have have shown that children below the age of 1 year suffer nutritionally from having an employed mother, while older children benefit. This study examines this possibility in a very poor population in Calcutta, India. Z scores of height for age (H/A), weight for age (W/A) and weight for height (W/H) relative to NCHS references were calculated from cross-sectional anthropometric measurements made on 166 mother-child pairs, and related to maternal nutritional and occupational status/and child feeding practices. Z scores of H/A show a decline relative to National Center for Health Statistics references across age groups regardless of maternal employment status. However, children with employed mothers have significantly higher H/A but not W/H, while breastfed children have higher W/H regardless of their age. Although employed women are heavier and have a higher mean BMI than women who do not work for income, there is no relationship between maternal size and nutritional status, and between the stature and nutritional status of the child. The greater stature of the offspring of employed women may be due greater long-term food availability to the families of such women, but this conjecture remains untested. The stage of feeding effect, in which breastfeeding infants are heavier for stature than those receiving supplements or having been weaned altogether, is independent of maternal nutritional status. Very young children do not suffer nutritionally as a consequence of maternal employment, relative to older children. This may be in part a function of the availability of free dietary supplements from the Jack Preger clinic, but also of employment patterns which are predominantly informal and part-time, and which allow mothers to persist in breastfeeding even while working.


  • Anthropological Science (Japanese Series)  

    Anthropological Science (Japanese Series) 106(3), 253-263, 1998-06 

    The Anthropological Society of Nippon

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