An Economic Analysis of the Diet, Growth, and Health of Young Children in the United States

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The purpose of this paper is to investigate the extent to which family income and education are obstacles to the provision of adequate diets for young children in the United States. An examination of the Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reveals the following: 1. Average nutrient intakes of young children are well above recommended dietary standards, with the exception of iron. 2. Average nutrient intakes for children in households of lower economic status are very similar to intakes of children in households of higher economic status. Rates of children's growth are also similar in these households. 3. Family income and education of the household head have statistically significant but very small positive effects on the nutrient intake levels of young children. 4. There are substantial effects of protein intakes on children's height and head growth, even though protein is consumed in excess of dietary standards. This finding and the apparent correlation between children's growth and their intellectual development brings to question the adequacy of present protein standards. Could American mothers, who provide very high protein diets for their children in households at all levels of socioeconomic status know more about what constitutes an adequate diet for their children than the experts do?