Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Economic Development, the Nutrition Trap, and Metabolic Disease

Kaivan Munshi
Professor of Economics, Yale University
Thursday, February 27, 2020 - 12:00
Center for the Advanced Study of India Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science & Economics 133 South 36th Street, Suite 230 Philadelphia PA 19104-6215

About the Speaker:
Kaivan Munshi is Professor of Economics at Yale University and was formerly the Frank Ramsey Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge. Much of his research has been devoted to the analysis of communities and their interaction with economic activity during the process of development. His current work focuses on gender inequality—sex selection and female labor force participation—in developing countries and the interaction between economic development and biology, with consequences for health and nutrition. Professor Munshi's research has been published in the American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Review of Economic Studies. He was the recipient of the Infosys Prize in the Social Sciences in 2016.

About the Lecture:
Professor Munshi provides a unified explanation for the persistence of malnutrition and the increased prevalence of metabolic disease (diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease) among normal-weight individuals with economic development. His theory is based on an epigenetically determined set point for BMI or bodyweight, which is adapted to conditions of scarcity in the pre-modern economy, but which subsequently fails to adjust to rapid economic change. During the process of development, some individuals thus remain at their low-BMI set point despite the increase in their consumption, while others who have escaped the nutrition trap (but are not necessarily overweight) are at increased risk of metabolic disease. The theory is validated with microdata from India, Indonesia, and Ghana and can simultaneously explain inter-regional (Asia-Africa) differences in nutritional status and the prevalence of diabetes.