Income elasticities for food, calories and nutrients across Africa: A meta-analysis

L. Colen*, P. C. Melo, Y. Abdul-Salam, D. Roberts, S. Mary, S. Gomez Y Paloma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)
57 Downloads (Pure)


This paper aims to provide a better understanding of the relationship between income and the demand for different types of food, nutrients, and calories in Africa by conducting a meta-analysis of income elasticity estimates. We build a meta-sample consisting of 1523 food-income elasticities, 369 nutrient-income elasticities, and 123 calorie-income elasticities extracted from 66 primary studies covering 48 African countries. The sample displays a large heterogeneity in income elasticity estimates, which our meta-analysis aims to explain by looking into attributes of the primary studies and characteristics of the countries considered. There are significant differences in the size of the income elasticities across food and nutrient groups. Foods that make up basic diets tend to have lower income elasticities, while elasticities are considerably higher for less basic and more aspirational foods. The role of methodological attributes of the primary studies in explaining heterogeneity is found to be small. Overall, our results confirm that although income growth in Africa will increase food consumption and lead to more nutritionally diverse diets, it is also associated with excessive intakes of fats and sugars, raising concerns about over-, in addition to undernutrition. This suggests that income-based policies can still play a role in the fight against hunger, but that targeted programs are needed to promote nutritionally valuable and healthy diets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-132
Number of pages17
JournalFood Policy
Early online date19 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • Africa
  • Food demand
  • Income elasticities
  • Malnutrition
  • Meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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