Socioeconomic inequalities persist despite declining stunting prevalence in low- and middle-income countries

Inácio Crochemore M. da Silva, Giovanny V. França, Aluisio J.D. Barros, Agbessi Amouzou, Julia Krasevec, Cesar G. Victora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Global stunting prevalence has been nearly halved between 1990 and 2016, but it remains unclear whether this decline has benefited poor and rural populations within low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Objective: We assessed time trends in stunting among children < 5 y of age (under-5) according to household wealth and place of residence in 67 LMICs. Methods: Stunting prevalence was analyzed in 217 nationally representative Demographic and Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys from 67 countries with ≥2 surveys between 1993 and 2014. National estimates were stratified by wealth and area of residence, comparing the poorest 40% with the wealthiest 60%, and those residing in urban and rural areas. Time trends were calculated for LMICs by using multilevel regression models weighted by under-5 population, with stratification by wealth and by residence. Trends in absolute (slope index of inequality; SII) and relative (concentration index; CIX) inequalities were calculated. Results: Mean prevalences in 1993 were 53.7% in low-income and 48.2% in middle-income countries, with annual average linear declines of 0.76 and 0.72 percentage points (pp), respectively. Although similar slopes of declines were observed for the poorest 40% and wealthiest 60% groups in all countries (0.78 and 0.74 pp, respectively), absolute and relative inequalities increased over time in low-income countries (SII increased from -19.3% in 1993 to -23.7% in 2014 and CIX increased from -6.2% to -10.8% in the same period). In middle-income countries, socioeconomic inequalities remained stable. Overall, stunting prevalence decreased more rapidly among rural than for urban children (0.78 and 0.55 pp, respectively). Conclusions: The prevalence of stunting is decreasing. Poor-rich gaps are stable in middle-income countries and slightly increasing in low-income countries. Rural-urban inequalities are decreasing over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-258
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Family characteristics
  • Growth disorders
  • Income
  • Prevalence
  • Rural population
  • Socioeconomic factors
  • Surveys and questionnaires

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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