Panel Paper: The Global Determinants of Food Insecurity: Analyzing Individual Experiential Measures

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 : 11:30 AM
Clement House, 3rd Floor, Room 05 (London School of Economics)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Michael D. Smith1,2, Alisha Coleman-Jensen3 and Matthew P. Rabbitt2, (1)American University, (2)Economic Research Service, USDA, (3)U.S. Department of Agriculture
Defining a common metric that can measure the prevalence and severity of food insecurity across all places, languages, and cultures around the world has been lacking. Until now. This is made possible with FAO’s Voices of the Hungry (VoH) project which has developed an experiential measure of food insecurity—the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES). The FIES is the first survey protocol to measure people’s direct experience of food insecurity on a global scale.

More food is produced today than ever before. Yet providing all people access to enough food for an active and healthy life is a problem we have yet to solve as a global society. The significance of this problem is highlighted by the United Nations making ending hunger and achieving global food security the second of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This means the need for an internationally comparable measure of food insecurity has never been more important.

This paper identifies common determinants of food insecurity in 147 countries around the world and examines how they vary over geographical regions. The FIES data were collected in 2014 in nationally representative surveys of individuals 15 years of age and older in 147 countries. To find the common determinants of food insecurity I run a series of multilevel hierarchical models over 147 countries using information on demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. I present the first cross-country comparable estimates and global determinants of food insecurity. I find that being female, young, unmarried, having low levels of education, more children, and being unemployed lead to higher probabilities of experiencing both food insecurity and severe food insecurity. I also consider how the determinants of food insecurity vary across seven global regions (Latin America & Caribbean, East Asia & Pacific, Europe & Central Asia, Middle East & North Africa, North America, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa).

Countries need information on the characteristics, circumstances, and location of the food insecure to build political will, design effective policies, and target scarce resources (Terri J. Ballard, Kepple, & Cafiero, 2013). The FIES represents an important complement to existing model-based measures of food security and other initiatives that quantify the magnitude of food insecurity within countries. Rather than duplicating supply model-based estimates of food insecurity, this research extends the field by developing a greater understanding of the food access dimension of global food insecurity among different populations with a respondent-level survey-based measure.