Author's School

Brown School of Social Work

Author's Department/Program

Social Work


English (en)

Date of Award

Summer 9-1-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Michael Sherraden


Undernutrition is an underlying determinant of 45% of all childhood deaths annually, resulting in 3.1 million deaths to children less than five years globally (Black et al., 2013). The adverse effects of undernutrition, especially chronic undernutrition, could cause impaired physical growth, mental development retardation, low productivity and poverty during adulthood, and undernutrition of next generation. Worldwide, over 200 million children are undernourished (Black et al., 2013). Thus, there is an imperative to identify effective preventive actions or interventions for child undernutrition. Studies have documented links between undernutrition and low income, but few has tackling the causation from assets to child nutrition. The study proposed an asset-based framework for alleviating undernutrition. It is hypothesized that assets could increase child nutrition via improving house food security, child care, household environment, and access to health services. The study pools Wave 2004 and 2009 of China Health and Nutrition Survey and testifies the hypotheses by linear regression, logistic regression, and SEM modeling. Nutritional status is indicated using international growth standards for anthropometry, measured by height-for-age z score (HAZ), weight-for-age z score (WAZ), and weight-for-height (WHZ) z score, while the wealth index is obtained by principal component analysis as the proxy of assets. Findings from both the regressions and SEM models suggest that assets have a positive impact on HAZ or chronic malnutrition, mainly via household food security, child dietary intake, and infections. The same effects on WAZ and WHZ were not found. The employment status and education level of parents are also reported significantly associated with the key constructs on the pathways to child nutrition. Sensitivity tests show that missing values do not bias the findings. The study suggests the importance of combining asset-based interventions with other poverty and nutrition strategies to prevent and alleviate undernutrition in China and other developing countries with the similar culture and development level.


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