March, 2019

Do Voluntary Associations Reduce Hunger?

An empirical exploration of the social capital- food security nexus among food impoverished households in western Nepal
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Using involvement in voluntary associations and the density of community groups as measures of social capital, the paper empirically examines its potential interlink with food security. To account for the potentially endogenous nature of individual social capital, we used a multi-equation recursive modeling framework allowing for contemporaneous correlation across equations. We demonstrate that strengthening social capital can be an effective way of combatting extreme food insecurity. However, our empirical findings also highlight a cautionary note, that lumping all forms of social capital into one unit to force a uniform narrative about its impacts can be misleading. Using cross sectional household data from food-impoverished western Nepal, we show that participation in finance-related associations has a direct impact on hunger mitigation, whereas associations that have informational or other roles do not have such an impact. Our findings suggest that community level social capital may have “environmental” effects that can lead to positive food security outcomes. On the other hand, while involvement in informational associations has no direct significant impact on the prevalence of hunger, we found that they help to improve the nutritional quality of diets, thereby circuitously leading to improvements in the food security status of women in Nepal.